ISAIAH 61:10-62:3

THE BACKGROUND

This part of the book of Isaiah was written about God’s people, who were returning home from exile.  God has saved them from what could have been the end of their culture. These are also very fitting words of praise to God who saves from a different fate.  He gives us the gift of his Son, who saves us and adopts us as heirs of the kingdom.

THE DETAIL

  • Verse 10 starts right off with praise for God’s saving actions.  They are likened to clothing—garments of salvation. Party or wedding clothing!  You can feel the joy and celebration.
  • Israel was experiencing a new beginning.  There was great hope, like the hope you have when planting a tree. That hope was that Israel would grow and be a shining example of God’s greatness.  Their vindication, or come-uppance, would show the world how great they and their God are.  After Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, the church spread rapidly to “all the nations” (v. 11)
  • When I read the words of 62:1, I think of the pop tune by Cat Stevens. The song begins “I can’t keep it in, can’t keep it in.  I’ve gotta let it out!”  This is the Christmas joy we should all have, knowing the wonderful free gift that our Savior brings to us.

THE TAKEAWAY

With Jesus’ birth on Christmas, we get a wonderful gift. Immanuel—God lives with us.  He comes to heal, to teach, and to save. Let’s go tell it on the mountain!
 

GALATIANS 4:4-7

THE BACKGROUND

Sometimes, the apostle Paul is very wordy, and other times he is ultra-concise.  Here, in the span of three verses, we get a view of the beautiful, intimate relationship that we can have with our Lord.

THE DETAIL

  • God had to wait until the right time before he sent his son.  At the time that Jesus came, Greek was the universal language, much like English is today.  This allowed free communication throughout the Roman Empire.  The relative peace that Roman occupation provided, along with the roads they built, helped people like Paul to quickly travel and spread the news.  This, to me, is what Paul meant by the “fullness of time”.  Then, and only then, did God put is saving action into place. He sent his Son, born of Mary, born a devout Jew (“under the law”), all with one purpose in mind—so that we could be redeemed, and be adopted as God’s very children. (vv. 4-5)
  • Because we are his beloved children, he sends the Holy Spirit to help us call him our Father.  The word “Abba” is the Hebrew (Aramaic, actually) word for Father, but in the familiar form.  It is what a child would call their father—“Dada” or “Daddy”!  It does sound like something a baby would say, doesn’t it?  The point here is that we don’t just get to call God “Father”, but we get to use the intimate, loving term of Daddy. We are members of His family.  (v. 6)
  • Verse 7 might seem a little odd, since Paul is talking about slavery.  At that time, about a third of the population was slaves.  It was commonplace, and not considered morally wrong.  Paul often uses it as an illustrative example, to show our prior relationship with God.  In his letter to the Romans, he says that in our former lives, we were slaves to sin. Now, as believers in Jesus, we are children of God.  In Roman times, when a Roman citizen died, the children were his heirs, and the slaves got nothing.   Paul uses this to show us that now that we are the adopted children of God, we inherit eternal life.  I know it doesn’t say all that here, you’ll find it in Romans and some of Paul’s other writings.  We studied those passages a few months ago.

 

THE TAKEAWAY

Before Jesus left his throne, and came to walk with us, we were merely Gentiles in the darkness.  Now, we are God’s very children, able to call him “Daddy”!

 


LUKE 2:22-40

THE BACKGROUND

I am amazed that the amount of travelling that Joseph and Mary undertook.  It would be one thing if they had a nice little motorhome.  Instead, they did it all on foot.  Old paintings show Mary riding on a donkey, but none is mentioned in the Bible.  They travelled on foot from their home village of Nazareth, to go to Bethlehem.  I looked it up.  It is an 84 mile journey.  Can you imagine walking that distance?  It’s like walking from Tryon to Charlotte!  That had to take at least three or four days, maybe more with a wife ready to deliver a baby. 

Now, they are off to Jerusalem!  The Jewish law requires that Jesus be circumcised eight days after his birth.  Since they were in the neighborhood, they did this in Jerusalem—it was on the way back from Bethlehem, only 8 miles up the road.  After that, they still had 78 miles to go, before they were back home in Nazareth.  Later, they would make the long journey to Egypt, but we’ll save that for another day.

 

THE DETAIL

  • So, in obedience to Leviticus 12:1-8, they bring the baby Jesus to the temple. (vv. 22-23)
  • They bring the prescribed offering of four birds.   This tells us that Mary and Joseph are poor.  They do not bring the regular offering prescribed in Leviticus 12:6, but the provisional one in verse 8, for those who cannot afford a lamb.
  • Here’s where the story gets fascinating.  An old man approaches, and takes Jesus in his arms!  He says those words that many of us know as the Song of Simeon (or the Nunc Dimittus).  (vv. 25-32)
  • You can imagine how the parents felt!  The bible tells us they were “amazed”.  They were probably feeling a lot of other emotions, as well.  Then, Simeon turns to Mary and makes a prophetic proclamation.  We believe the “sword piercing Mary’s soul” might have something to do with watching her son suffer and die on the cross.  (vv. 33-35)
  • If that wasn’t enough, an elderly prophetess approaches them as well.  She praises Jesus, and talks about the redemption of Jerusalem. (vv.36-38)
  • After an exciting day in the temple, they return to Nazareth, where Jesus will grow “strong, filled with wisdom…”  (vv. 39-40)

 

THE TAKEAWAY

Simeon waited most of his life for the chance to see the Messiah.  Now that he has seen and held this precious child, he is at peace.  In his song, Simeon essentially says “Lord, I’ve seen him! You can take me now.”  We have “seen” Jesus through the stories given us in the Gospels.  We can be at peace, knowing that our eyes have seen God’s salvation.