“‘For nothing will be impossible with God.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:37-38)
The angel of the Lord who appeared to Mary to tell her that she was to give birth was the same who had appeared to her kinsman, Zacharias a priest. But Mary was a simple and humble country girl who in some way knew the scriptures. She knew the Lord and had faith in Him. She knew He was capable of mighty deeds, yet the message the angel Gabriel gave her made no sense since the supernatural conception of a child by the Holy Spirit was something never heard of before. Mary understood that the Lord was finally fulfilling His age old promise of Messiah and was glad of it. She was willing to do what the Lord commanded even if she did not fully comprehend how it was to happen. In addition, she did think about the affect this would have on here life or the consequences to her reputation and social status. All she thought was the Lord commanded and she had to obey without hesitation.
Mary is a good example for us to emulate. She had faith in the Lord. She knew that God always fulfills His promises. She knew that the Lord exalted the lowly. He called the least likely people to accomplish His work, not the rich, famous and mighty. The Lord God delights to extend mercy. His ways and His will confound humans because He does things contrary to what the world thinks best. He favors and blesses the lowly, the humble, the insignificant, and uses them to accomplish His greatest works. He still does this through us His Church.
Merry Christmas to all!
“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. ‘Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.'” (Habakkuk 2:3-4 ESV)
After Habakkuk spoke his complaint, he waited on the Lord for a further reply. He wanted good news. He wanted words of encouragement. So he waited on Yahweh to answer. He did not worry and fret. He did not shout or yell or repeat the same phrases or complaints or petitions over and over. He realized that God had heard and would answer. And He did. The answer He gave was meant to provide His people, then as well as now, with practical help that would sustain them through trying times while remaining faithful to the Lord.
The righteous people of Judah were about to face devastation which they had never known before. The very foundation of their world was about to crumble. They were going to lose everything: their homes, fields and maybe their lives. Their families would be torn apart and exiled to a land a thousand miles away, enslaved and abused by idolatrous and cruel pagans. Since there was no way to avoid this, what possible hope could they have? What good news would make these circumstances more endurable? What would the Lord give them to help them to remain faithful without falling into despair or turn away from Him? According to Habakkuk the righteous will live by faith. They will walk in obedience because they believe what God says will happen even though the evidence of their eyes and their experience say different.
Now this explanation of the righteous will live by his faith in context differs in some way from our understanding of what it means for the righteous to live by faith. Our understanding of that phrase derives from Martin Luther’s proclamation that our salvation depends on God’s work not ours. Luther’s understanding of the verse was based on its reinterpretation by the apostle Paul in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 4:10-14.
Paul knew the practical meaning of the passage, that the righteous must live by faithful obedience to God’s word, trusting in His promises even in the midst of turmoil. This is the right way to live because it is God’s way. Yet under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul explained the fuller meaning of the verse, a meaning which liberates us from the tyranny of keeping the Law. We no longer have to worry that God will condemn us. He offers mercy, forgiveness, wisdom and strength to those who come to Him knowing that without His help, no one can live a life of righteousness even if he or she wanted to. We can live in righteousness but we only as we rely on Christ. The words the righteous will live by faith mean that salvation does not depend on our good works, our piety or even our keeping of the law, or failure to do so. Salvation is by faith in the righteousness of Christ, in His atoning work on the cross. The benefits of His work are granted to all those who are humble and broken and who surrender themselves to His will.
“Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify him!’ A third time he said to them, ‘Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.’” (Luke 23:20-22)
The Sanhedrin had no authority to condemn Jesus to death so they decided to place the case before the Roman governor, Pilate. They accused Jesus of provoking a rebellion against the Roman Empire as He had claimed to be the King of the Jews. Although Jesus did admit to this, Pilate could see that He was a humble and peaceful man and deemed this matter to be just a petty squabble among the Jews. He packed Jesus off to Herod to delay making a decision, but Herod was consumed only by self-interest and perhaps by guilt over the execution of John the Baptist. He did not want to make any decision. Eventually Pilate made a choice to placate the Sanhedrin. He did not really care about justice, compassion, or civil rights only politics and self-interest. Yet he wrote this charge over His head as if He were an insurrectionist: King of the Jews.
We should learn from Jesus’ humble and humiliating suffering. When we suffer we often complain, cry and become filled with self-pity especially when we are falsely accused. As Jesus was suffering, His concern was not His own pain but the feelings and needs of others. He comforted the grieving women. He forgave His executioners, both the Romans and the Jews. He granted mercy and salvation to the repentant thief. And, no doubt, His thoughts were for us as well, for He bore the weight of our sins. He experienced the wrath of God because of us, so we too are to be counted among those who nailed Him to the cross. When we suffer we should seek the help of Jesus so we may offer our pain for His glory. We do this because of what Jesus endured on our behalf.
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.'” (Isaiah 12:3-5)
In the previous chapter Isaiah prophesied of the coming of the Messiah and His awesome kingdom. In that day, we will offer Him ecstatic praise. What else can we do when all these things come to pass? We will be praising and rejoicing for eternity. The first reason we praise Him is because we want to thank Him for His deliverance and salvation. Then we want to praise Him as a community of faith, of believers bound together with Him. The unity and peace which all humanity longs for will be ours In that day.
Those who come to Him and drink of these waters find strength, wisdom and new life for ever and ever. Thus salvation and eternal life are found no where else in the universe but in this well of life. This is what we declare to the nations. We praise God that they might hear the Good News of life that is in no other but in Him. We have found the greatest news, the meaning and purpose of life and we must share it with others before it is too late. If we do not tell them the good news then they will perish. The joy we have in the Lord enables us to preach the gospel to everyone we meet.
“Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you.” (Jeremiah26:12-13)
The message of coming judgement that Jeremiah taught was quite unpopular with the people of Judah. When he preached that same message in the Temple courts he provoked the anger of the priests and the prophets because they were the religious authorities of the nation. Jeremiah’s message contradicted theirs and offended them. They claimed at he was a false prophet who should be punished accordingly. Yet the civil magistrates vindicated him by citing 2 cases of other situations in which true prophets had preached an unpopular message. It was best to let Jeremiah go and see what happened but his message was ignored.
The reactions of those religious officials shows us the depravity of the human mind. Those who are think they are religious or spiritual gurus because they have a degree or position or title often claim to know God, to be intimate with Him. Academia and the media both hail them as authorities when they need someone to speak about God or religion. However, the things they say reveal that few of them know Jesus. What they often proclaim is the truth as they see it. They refrain from talking about sin, sinful lifestyles, idolatry and false religions. Like the priests and prophets of Judah they do not want to disturb the status quo by antagonizing people or making them feel guilt, poor self-esteem or the need for repentance. But we who have faith in Christ are called to speak the truth like Jeremiah did despite the opposition and the consequences.
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 ESV)
The Corinthian believers erred when they thought they had achieved spiritual perfection. One of the ways this manifested itself was in the widespread teaching that there was no bodily resurrection from the dead because they were already in their glorified state. Their bodies they deemed expendable and useless for the resurrection were spiritual not physical. This disdain for the body expressed as either ignoring it or by indulging its sinful cravings. So Paul reminded them of their common belief in the resurrection of Christ.
Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians serves to underscore one of the central truths of the Christian Faith: the belief in the literal bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead. It is one of those truth we affirm in the Apostle’s Creed. What Paul teaches indicates that if we deny Christ’s resurrection, if we say it never happened, then we are denying our own resurrection. Christ rose from the dead and this is the proof that He died for our sins. To deny this truth then means that we are still spiritually dead and incapable of pleasing God. Christ’s bodily resurrection is the ultimate proof that He defeated sin and death on the cross. Believers need not fear death because we are certain we will be raised again to eternal glory for we are united with Christ.