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Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,and have come to pay him homage.’
The birth of Jesus fulfils another Old Testament prophecy in a way that he couldn’t possibly have controlled.
But then arrive “the” kings. Who have been following a star to find him – calling him ‘King of the Jews. This might not be an Old Testament prophecy but it shows the weight and the importance the early followers pit on his birth.
And what if it were true.
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
Then I will draw near to you for judgement; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow, and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.
For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished.
Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’
The end of the old meets the beginning of the new.
Whilst remembering God’s claim that he does not change. Like in Isaiah however (43 etc) he is still allowed to do a “new thing”.
In Christ we meet the same God as always but ready for their time… and ours.
The a bible would “argue” that God is always trying to be relevant to us and our needs including today. And since the beginning of the New Testament that has been through Jesus.
For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.
Ezekiel 34 11-16
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
God will rescue and search for his sheep – he is a benevolent, kind ruler. As it says in John he ‘will lay down his life for the sheep’.
The only people he will not help is ‘the fat and the strong’ – those who have all they need without him. He (ironically) feeds ‘them with justice’. Giving those who have more, more. But this means they are judged according to what they do and have.
The sheep (those who declare their need for Jesus) only have to try and get by. It is not one rule for one and another for the others. But we have to chose which rule we want for ourselves.
See, my servant shall prosper;
he shall be exalted and lifted up,
and shall be very high.
Just as there were many who were astonished at him*
—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of mortals—
so he shall startle* many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering* and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces*
he was despised, and we held him of no account.
Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb* with the rich,*
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.*
When you make his life an offering for sin,*
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see light;*
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one,* my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
The servant will prosper…
He was despised and rejected by others … A man of suffering …
Two references today in two consecutive chapters of Isaiah. Arguably the key references prophecying Jesus future role for the church.
What does it mean if God foretold not just the good times but the suffering of his servant/son too?
he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
The holy one of Israel…
Jesus himself claims to be the light of the world.
Sometimes Jesus may be as advertised – gentle, meek and mild; but at other times he is fully himself. In this case claiming a title which others may not think he deserves or has a right to.
It is up to each of us to decide for ourselves what we make of it. True or false.
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was am the Alpha and who is to come, the Almighty. Say to the cities of Judah,
‘Here is your God!’
See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.
‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Yet again he gently leads his sheep but this time he is the ‘alpha and omega’ – the first and last who has been there for all time and will be there for all time.
Or as Revelation puts it: who is and was and is to come.
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
On that day the branch of the shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel.
and so the list goes on. Noticeably talking of peace and the wolf being able to lie with the lamb (or perhaps more importantly vice versa).
Again this is tied, in verse 1, to the traditional Jewish historic family line – a shoot from the stock of Jesse.
Jesse being the father of David (1 Samuel 16:1-20)
The Lord has punished me severely,
but he did not give me over to death. Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Two Old Testament readings today and a promise of what is to come.
A ‘cornerstone’ is coming; the foundation which keeps everything else upright. ‘A sure foundation.’
From out of Zion will come the root core of all Christian faith.
I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
2 I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens. 3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David: 4 ‘I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.’” Selah
‘It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.’
As with yesterdays Old Testament passage love and faithfulness is a recurring theme in verses 1 and 2.
But now the covenant (promise) is made and the descendants are secure for ever. He is the root – the foundation- which holds all of these promises together.
In the New Testament passage Jesus once more claims his lineage to David
You, Lord, showed favor to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people
and covered all their sins.
3 You set aside all your wrath
and turned from your fierce anger. 4 Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us. 5 Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
6 Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your unfailing love, Lord,
and grant us your salvation.
He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,
It seemed that God would be angry with his people forever. Even though he had forgiven them for their mistakes in the past.
Their cry for ‘love and faithfulness’ was often expected of them throughout the Old Testament and here it is reversed.
But in the New Testament we see God’s new answer. Of the lineage of the Old but also completely new.