Advent thoughts: December 17

“It is too light a thing that you [Jesus] should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6—read Isaiah 49:1-7).

Abraham was told that, from his family, living in the Promised Land, a blessing would arise for the entire world. Isaiah also reported that the Messiah would come, not only to rescue Israel, but to redeem the entire world. Jesus raised the ire of his neighbors in Nazareth, not by preaching that he is the Messiah—they were fine with that message—but by promising to save the entire world.

Not only from his birth, but from eternity Jesus was destined to be the ransom and the redemption of sinners. His glory is to bring the people of the world into the kingdom of God. Mary and Joseph were both told that his name was to be Jesus—Y’shua, which means “the Lord saves.” The angel who announced his birth to shepherds identified him by three other names: “A Savior who is Christ the Lord.”

Isaiah describes Christ as God’s secret weapon, a sharp sword hidden in his hand, a polished arrow concealed in his quiver. Many people did not recognize him even when they stood near him and spoke with him. The Pharisees and Sadducees rejected Jesus because he did not fit into their religion. The Pharisees thought they could save themselves by obedience to God’s Law. The Sadducees thought that they earned salvation by performing sacrifices in the Temple. Neither group could see that the perfect obedience of Jesus replaces our flawed and broken obedience. Neither group could see that the sacrifice of Jesus completes the work of which the Temple sacrifices were only a picture.

Yet others did recognize Jesus. Simeon recognized Jesus forty days after he was born in Bethlehem. He held Mary’s infant son and called him “a light to enlighten the nations and the glory of God’s people Israel.” Simeon knew the promise of Isaiah that the Messiah would be a light to the nations. To other people in the Temple Jesus might have seemed to be just another baby, but the Holy Spirit gave Simeon eyes to see the salvation promised through Jesus.

Even today people are confused about Jesus. Some call him one of the prophets and say that he is nothing more than a prophet. Others say he was a good man who told us to love one another and say that he is nothing more than a good man. A few dare to claim that Jesus never even existed. But Jesus is real. He is more than a prophet (but not less) and more than a good man (but not less). He is the Son of God, Lord of the universe, having been given all power and authority. He is the Head of the Church, caring for his people in this world and promising eternal life in a better world. He is the Light of the world, showing us the way to be right with God, not by our works, but through his righteousness and his sacrifice.

All this was planned from the beginning of creation. Before he said, “Let there be light,” God knew about the sins that would be committed. He knew about the sorrow and suffering and death that those sins would cause. He knew about the price he would have to pay to redeem sinners. God loves the people he created, and he decided that we are worth the price of redemption. We belong to him because he made us and because he paid to redeem us. We are safe in his hands forever. Thanks be to God! J.

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Advent thoughts: December 7

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen” (Deuteronomy 18:15—read Deuteronomy 18:15-22).

The roles or tasks of the Messiah, as described in the Old Testament, are generally listed as prophet, priest, and king. A priest offers sacrifices; a king rules. The job of a prophet is to deliver messages from God. One might consider a prophet to be a press agent for God. The prophet is authorized to speak for God; whatever a prophet says in the name of the Lord is the word of God.

Jesus is the perfect priest, offering himself as the final sacrifice for all sins. Jesus is the perfect king, ruling the entire universe with authority given to him from his Father. Jesus is also the perfect prophet. Jesus is God, so anything he says is automatically a message from God.

As all the priests are pictures of Jesus and all the kings are pictures of Jesus, so likewise all the prophets are pictures of Jesus. When Moses speaks of one prophet who will rise in Israel, clearly Moses is thinking of Jesus. But before Jesus was born, other prophets also preached God’s Word. Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and many more were inspired by the Holy Spirit. He guided them as they spoke and as they wrote, so we may consider all their messages to be trustworthy and true.

Jesus is the ultimate prophet. The last prophet to precede him, John the Baptist, emphasized the difference between Jesus and all other prophets. John said that he was not worthy to deal with the sandals of Jesus. “He must increase,” John declared, “and I must decrease.”

When Muslims say that Jesus is one of the prophets, they severely demote him from his true position. Jesus asked his disciples what people were saying about him, and they answered, “Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and some say one of the prophets.” Jesus then asked the key question: “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered correctly: “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”

When God spoke the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai, the Israelites were so terrified that they asked for a mediator so they would not have to hear the voice of God. God agreed to their request and named Moses as the mediator between God and Israel. The other prophets, speaking for God, also served as mediators. But in the Christian Church we have one Mediator between God and his people: Jesus Christ, who is the perfect Mediator, because he is fully human and fully divine. As our great High Priest, he pleads to the Father for us, reminding his Father that the price has been paid for all our sins. As our great Prophet, he reminds us why we were created by speaking the Law of God, but he also promises us forgiveness by speaking the promises of God. Being human, he fully understands our needs and our requests. Being divine, he is able to do anything, and he does what is best for us.

Jesus is our Prophet, our Priest, and our King. Through him we have forgiveness of sins, fellowship with God, victory over every kind of evil, and the guarantee of eternal life in a perfect new creation. Thanks be to God! J.