Friday, January 31, 2020

Turn Around

Matthew 4:12-23

In our Gospel reading today from this past week’s Lectionary, we read a word that is not very popular in today’s world, and that is the word “repent”.  Many pastors are hesitant to preach or speak about repentance, thinking it will label them as some type of 17th century Puritan-era preacher. People seem to feel that it is a message from the past, one that doesn’t fit into today’s 21st century world.  Preachers today like to give “feel-good” messages, as that’s what people want to hear. They like to hear that everything is fine, that they are good, and about peace and love. However, this was the major theme of God’s messenger, John the Baptist, and as we see today, one that was picked up and preached by the Lord Jesus Christ, as well.

As our Scripture passage opens, Jesus is just leaving the city of Nazareth, the town that He had grown up in.  Jesus had experienced nothing but rejection and hostility in His hometown of Nazareth. They had even talked of killing Him there (Luke 4:16-30), so He heads about 20 miles north, to the city of Capernaum, where He sets up His home base for His ministry in Galilee (vs. 12-16).  Being in Capernaum fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2. Capernaum was also a more bustling city than Nazareth, and was on a trade route along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, where more people could be reached with the Gospel message.

The area of Galilee had once been a part of the northern kingdom of Israel, the kingdom that had been the first to fall into idolatry when the nation had split into two kingdoms following the death of King Solomon.  The people of the northern kingdom had fallen away from the true worship of Yahweh, and became deeply entrenched in the worship of false gods and idols. As the prophet Isaiah said, they were a people in darkness (vs. 16).  It was to the Galileans, the descendants of the people of the northern kingdom that Jesus came and spent a large portion of His ministry with, occasionally going south into Judah for religious festivals. The Light of God came to them, just as Isaiah promised in his prophecy.

What was the first message that Jesus brought?  His first messages were about repentance (vs. 17) .  Many people today do not think that Jesus ever spoke about repentance, feeling that this was just an Old Testament injunction, and that Jesus changed the tone of the Bible from repentance to love.  As we see here, Jesus called upon people to repent. To repent is like the military command “About face!” Turn around and go in the opposite direction. Stop heading towards sin and self, and instead turn around and head towards God and His ways.  This is a message that we need to hear today. We need to turn away from our self-centeredness and our wanting to run our lives ourself, and turn our lives over to Jesus and His control and direction. We need to admit that we are sinners, heading down the wrong path, the path of sin and towards the devil.  We need to listen to God’s Word and His messengers, and realize we are going the wrong way! Repent and turn around, and head back towards God! That was Jesus’ message as He started preaching and teaching in Galilee.

One of the first things Jesus also did when He arrived in Capernaum was to seek out and call two of the men He had previously met when He was baptized by John.  He sought out Peter and Andrew, along with their companions James and John (vs. 18-22). Peter and Andrew had already met and spoken with Jesus, and were already interested in following Him, and they all heard His preaching and teaching in the area.  When Jesus called them, they responded and gave up controlling their own life their own way, allowing God to take charge (vs. 20, 22).

Along with Jesus’ call to these men to come and follow Him, He instructed them that they were also to go out and bring others to Him, to be “fishers of men” (vs. 19).  This instruction is to us, as well. We are to help others find Jesus. We are to follow and obey God in our own lives, and also share the Gospel with others. Right before He returned to heaven, Jesus instructed us to tell others about repentance (Luke 24:45-48), along with salvation in His Name.  We are to preach repentance, just as He did, along with John the Baptist, and the prophets. Our life and our message will draw others to Jesus, just like a fisherman.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Unity Or Disunity

I Corinthians 1:10-17

How do you feel when squabbling or arguments arise at your workplace, at a club or organization you are a part of, or even within your family?  Do you pick a side and join in the argument, or sit quietly, trying not to get involved? Or perhaps you try to make peace between the sides. Being in a climate of tension is not pleasant for most people, and when we find it in our churches, not only does it make for an unconducive atmosphere for worship, but it is also a very poor testimony for the unsaved world.  In our Scripture passage today, continuing in the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he addresses this issue which has developed among the believers there.

Corinth was a large port city that brought business and trade from all parts of the Mediterranean world.  Paul had spent many months witnessing and preaching there, and had begun the church in Corinth. Now, several years later, he hears that major arguments and contentions are occurring, splitting the believers into several factions.  One of the issues that the Corinthian church was squabbling over was who their favorite preacher was (vs. 11-13). Some in that church claimed the Apostle Peter (Cephas) as their favorite. He was one of the chief leaders of the early church, the unspoken leader of the original twelve apostles of Jesus.  Some of the Corinthians felt he was the preacher to follow. Others liked one of their own local Greek preachers named Apollos. A few claimed their favorite as Paul, himself, the one who first brought the Gospel message to their city. Then there were some who didn’t want to be part of this squabbling, who didn’t claim any particular preacher as their favorite, and who wanted ultimately to follow only the Lord Jesus.

Unfortunately such type of dissention still exists today in many churches and Christian groups.  People get in disputes over their favorite Christian authors, TV evangelists, and Christian radio stations.  Congregations get into arguments over who should be their music leader, or what material should be used for the Sunday School classes.  Paul wrote that this is something that should not be happening among fellow believers. No Christian preacher, author, or musician should be elevated or given the loyalty that belongs to Jesus. Doing that only leads to contentions, disputes, and a divided church rather than Christian unity among believers, something that Jesus prayed for in John 17:11-23.  We ought not to let our appreciation for any preacher or teacher lead us into contention with others, or divide us (vs. 10). Our allegiance should be to Jesus Christ and the unity in His Body.

How can there be unity among believers when we come from different backgrounds and cultures, have different temperaments and different interests, etc.?  We can accomplish this by holding fast and strong to sound doctrine. Sound Scriptural doctrine, such as the Virgin birth of Jesus Christ, His substitutionary death on the Cross for our salvation, the inerrancy of the Bible, is the foundation for church unity.  A weak commitment to doctrine destroys unity and weakens the church.

Some of the believers in Corinth were claiming loyalty to the one preacher who had baptized them.  Paul taught that this shouldn’t be the case, and that he is thankful that he had only baptized a few there (vs. 14-16).  Paul isn’t minimizing the importance of baptism. However, that was not his ministry. Paul’s ministry was to preach the Gospel, to evangelize.  Others were to pastor the churches he established. No one person should be doing everything. God doesn’t call just one person to do everything.  He gives each of us certain gifts, talents, and abilities, and we should use those gifts and abilities areas best suited for them. Christian ministry should be a team effort, where everyone is serving in areas best suited for them.

Paul was called to bring the message of Jesus to others.  One doesn’t need to be a great orator to preach the Gospel (vs. 17).  The power of salvation is in the message, not the messenger. When Christians are in harmony with each other, it is a testimony to the world, and will help in spreading the message of Jesus.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Never Alone!

Psalm 139:1-18

Depression is a serious affliction that is a lot more common than people want to acknowledge.  If we’re honest, most people would have to admit that they’ve felt depressed at one time or another.  Loneliness is one cause of depression, and something that many people face day after day, along with feelings that no one cares about them, and feelings that they are worthless.   If you have ever felt that way, or if you have those feelings now, then this psalm is for you. This is one of the many psalms that David wrote, one that will show us just how intimately God knows us, and how special we are to Him.

There are some people who are deists, those who believe that God is a distant, remote God who is not concerned with our lives and what is going on in the world, and does not get involved.  They may believe that He got the ball rolling with creation in the distant past, but then He just stepped back, and is not involved in our day-to-day goings on. This psalm from Scripture shows that belief is wrong, right from the very first verses.  The first segment of our psalm, verses 1-6, show that God knows everything about each and every one of us. He knows what each of us are doing right now. He knows that I just ate breakfast, and what I ate. He knows what clothes I contemplated putting on this morning.  He knows what we are thinking about all day long (vs 2), so we really need to keep our thoughts pure and right! He knows everything we say, as well (vs. 4). We may feel that no one really knows us, who we really are, however God knows everything about us. Even with a complete and perfect knowledge of us, He still loves us.  God loves us enough to die for the salvation of our souls.

In the second segment of our psalm, verses 7-12, we learn that there is no place on earth, no place actually in all of the universe, that we can go to where God isn’t there.  God is everywhere. He is there if we climb to the top of Mt. Everest. He is there if we go to the lowest part of the ocean or the deepest cave. Even if we hop on some space craft and fly to the vast distances of the universe, God is still there, and He knows exactly where we are.  We may at times want to hide from God, but we cannot (Jeremiah 23:24). God is everywhere. He is there with all of His mercy, His grace, His love, His justice, and His holiness.

God will also never send us into any type of situation alone.  He always goes before His children. God goes before us, He stands beside us and behind us, providing protection and comfort.  God is also not bound by time as we know it and are bound by it. That court date you have next week, that surgery you face and are scared of - God is already there.  That future you face without your parents or without your spouse - He is there. Nothing takes God by surprise, and He will not send you there alone. God knows what we are facing, and will respond to our needs.

The third segment of this psalm describes how God was involved in the creation of each of us (vs. 13-18).  Many people feel ugly and unlovable. God tells us here that He knew exactly what He was doing when He made us in our mother’s womb.  He made us exactly the way He desired. Everyone is unique and special in God’s eyes. Every person who has ever lived has their own distinct fingerprint, voice pattern, retinal eye pattern, and DNA.  No one has ever, or will ever, be exactly like you. Yet God knows each of us separately, and loves us personally. He made us the way we are, and loves us that way. God cares so much about us that He even knows the number of our hair (Matthew 10:30).  He thinks about us more times than the number of grains of sand on each and every shoreline, and that’s a lot!

If we feel that we are lost and abandoned by Him, we can rest assured that is not the case.  There is no where we can ever go where God isn’t there. When our life bottoms out, the health fails, the bank account is empty, when our friends and family flees, who is left?  God is there, and He always will be. No matter where we go, God is there for us. Nothing, and no one, can keep us from Him! (Romans 8:35-39).

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Do We Listen?

Amos 3:1-8

There are some people who are authorities in their chosen field.  They know their material backward and forward, and when they say something, people listen.  Once in awhile you come across a news broadcaster whose word can be thoroughly trusted, and when they come on the air you know that their message is reliable.  Or maybe you are fortunate to know a financial adviser or stockbroker whose word is true and should be heeded. When a top doctor or even a meteorologist who knows his field well speaks up, wise people will listen.  What about when God speaks? Do people listen as they do to these other folks? Today’s Old Testament reading from this week’s Lectionary comes from the prophet Amos. Let’s look into it and see what message we can receive.

There are some people whose words and voice we ought to heed when we hear what they say.  Not only people’s voices, as verses 4 - 6 indicate. If you were walking in a jungle and heard the roar of a lion, it would be best to get out of there right away!  The sound of a rattlesnake is one to be heeded at the risk of one’s life. Living where I do, I’ve learned to pay attention to the tornado sirens that could sound at any time during the late spring and summer.  They give a warning that is important to act upon. In ancient times the people of any city needed to listen carefully for the warning of the trumpets that would sound from the guards upon the city wall (vs. 6).  The trumpets would warn of an approaching enemy, and when one heard them they needed to get to the safety of the city’s tower or else face certain death.

During the years of the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was privileged to have prophets who brought them the Word of God.  They had God’s Law, promises, and blessings, which the prophets faithfully spoke to them of. One would think that with this unique privilege, and since they had the direct Word of God given to them, that they would pay attention and follow what He said to them.  However this was not the case. Despite having prophets and priests to teach them the Scriptures, most of the people failed to heed God’s message. They were just like people who go out into the jungle, hear the sound of wild beasts, and ignore them. They were like people who paid no attention to the warning sounds the watchmen on the city walls would give.  The people of Israel ignored God’s Word and deliberately went down the paths of sin. They did not obey His laws, they failed to bring justice and mercy to others, and they worshipped the false gods of the nations around them.

The prophet Amos came to the people with God’s Word, just like many prophets before him, and many after him would.  He told them that they had been given this special privilege, but because of their disobedience and sins, God was going to punish them (vs. 2).  God had spoken, but they had not listened and followed (vs. 8). Now they would face judgment.

God gives His Word to His servants to bring to the people (vs. 7).  He did back in the days of Amos, and we have His Word today in the Bible, which godly men and women preach.  Do we heed God’s Word today? When we hear the message from Scriptures, are we like those who hear a warning and ignore it?  What do we think when we hear of someone who, even though they heard the dog barking and snarling, continued to approach him to pet it, and then got badly bit?  Why didn’t they obey the warning? The weatherman warns of a dangerous blizzard coming, but someone still decides to go driving out into a rural area, and then gets caught, trapped in their car, unable to get anywhere because of the snow.  Why didn’t they listen?

God has spoken! (vs. 8)  We have His Word! We have His message!  Are we listening to it? Will we believe it?  When He tells us that salvation is only through His Son, Jesus Christ, (John 14:6), we need to heed that word.  When He tells us that without His Son, we have no hope, (Acts 4:12), we need to pay attention.  God’s judgment is coming, and we need to listen and heed the warning!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Sharing The Good News

John 1:29-46

When we find something great, something we really like, what is one of the first things that we usually do?  We tell a friend or a relative about it. When we try out a new restaurant and find we like it, we’ll tell our friends.  We’ll tell others if we find a good car mechanic, or a good barber or hair salon. We’ll even share the news of a TV show that we’ve found and are enjoying.   In our Scripture passage today from the Gospel of John, we will see two young men who find something wonderful, something life-changing, and then cannot wait to tell others.

Our Gospel account today begins along the banks of the Jordan River, just east of Jerusalem.  John the Baptist had been there for awhile, both preaching a message of repentance to God, and also baptizing.  Over a period of time he had gathered some disciples, some followers who have seriously taken his message to heart.  Among them were two young men, fishermen from the northern Galilean city of Bethsaida, along the northern shore of Lake Galilee, Andrew and Philip.  As our passage opens, John the Baptist points Jesus out to his followers, telling them that He is the Lamb of God. Jesus had come to John for baptism, and John tells his disciples that day and the next day, as well, that Jesus is the One they should be following (vs. 29-36).

Both Andrew and Philip are curious about what John the Baptist had told them, and they got up and started to follow Jesus to see what He might have to say (vs. 37-39).  Was He really who John had told them He was? If so, they wanted to know Jesus, they wanted what He would have to offer. Jesus asked them what they were looking for, and the two men indicated they wanted to spend a little time with Him.  When Jesus responded with “Come and see”, they did just that.

It didn’t take either Andrew or Philip long to realize that Jesus was exactly who John the Baptist said He was, that He was the Messiah.  So what did they do with this information they had? Did they follow the age-old admonition to never talk about religion or politics with anyone?  No! As we read further, Andrew ran and told his brother Simon Peter that he had found the Messiah (vs. 40-42). Andrew had become a believer and follower of Jesus, and he sure wasn’t going to keep that a secret, especially from his brother whom he loved!  He told his brother that he had found someone wonderful, Jesus, and that he wanted him to know Him too!

Philip did the same thing.  When Jesus called Philip to follow Him, and he came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, he didn’t want to keep that information to himself.  Instead, he hurried to tell his good friend Nathaniel all that he knew about Jesus (vs. 43-45). Philip did not let his friend Nathaniel’s initial negative response turn him off.  He just told Nathaniel to “Come and see.” (vs. 46). Sometimes our friends may also be negative at first, but like Philip did, we need to urge them to check Jesus out.

Many people today are hesitant to share their faith, to tell others about Jesus.  A lot of people are afraid of offending others or making them angry. However, we have the best news ever, news of eternal significance.  It’s news that is more important than a new restaurant or a good mechanic. It’s certainly more urgent to spread than telling our friends about a good movie or show.  We never hesitate to tell others about those things, but how about telling them the news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, news that could ensure them a place in heaven, saving them from eternal damnation?

Andrew loved his family, like most people do, and he wanted his brother Simon Peter to meet the Savior.  Through Andrew’s invitation to his brother to come to Jesus, Peter was introduced to Jesus. Peter then came to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and later became one of the chief leaders of the early Church.  If Andrew had never told his brother, none of that would have happened. Nathaniel also became one that Jesus chose to be one of His 12 apostles. We need to continue to spread the good news that we, ourselves have found, that of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  If we don’t hesitate to tell of restaurants, hair stylists, and movies, we should never hesitate to tell of the best news ever. Do we have a brother or friend who needs Jesus? Let’s be like Andrew and Philip, and spread the news of the Savior. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

God Is Faithful

I Corinthians 1:1-9

One quality that we like to see in others, particularly a spouse or a close friend, is faithfulness.  We like to know that they will remain true, loyal, and that they are dependable. We like to know that if they promise us something, if they give us their word, we can depend upon it.  When troubles come our way we would like to know that we can rely on friends and family to be there for us, just as we hope we would be there for them. In our Scripture passage for today, I would like to focus on verse 9, where the Apostle Paul speaks of One that he knew was always faithful, One whom he could depend upon no matter what.

Throughout his life, the Apostle Paul had many friends, and also many enemies.  He could always rely upon his enemies to attack him at any opportunity that they had.  Whenever Paul came to a new village or city, bringing the Gospel to the lost, he could depend upon those enemies of the Lord to track him down and try to stop him, often with brutal physical attacks.  What about his friends? Were they dependable, true, and loyal? Frequently they were there to help him when needed. When Paul was stoned nearly to death in Lystra, his friends were there to help him, at the risk of their own safety (Acts 14:19).  In nearly every city and village that he brought the Gospel to, the Jews made plots to kill Paul, and his friends would help him get safely out of town. However, there were a number of times when Paul had no one to stand with him. At the close of his life, when he was brought to trial once again, his execution being right around the corner, Paul wrote to Timothy to say the sad words that no one was standing with him, and he was alone (II Timothy 4:16).

Have you ever been in a similar situation, where your friends were nowhere to be found when you needed them the most?  Perhaps they turned their backs on you while evil lies were being spread about you. Maybe when problems were mounting on your doorstep, all you received was silence to your phone calls, texts, and emails.  If your car broke down, could you rely upon them for a ride when you needed it? Some people are blessed to have good and faithful friends, but others are not, and Paul knew what that was like when he faced the greatest trial of his life and he was all alone.

All alone?  Paul knew that despite times when all his friends forsook him, that he wasn’t really alone.  As he said in our focus verse, “God is faithful”. All throughout his life Paul had found that God was faithful to him.  Reading through the Book of Acts we see over and over again how Paul was run out of town, needing to flee for his life. He was often arrested and even brutally whipped (Acts 16:22-24).  As pointed out above, Paul was also stoned, being revived after having been left for dead. We read in II Corinthians 11:23-28, where Paul gives an account of some of the trials he went through.  What got him through? It was the knowledge that during it all, God was faithful. Paul knew that He would be with him through everything (II Timothy 4:17-18).

Paul knew that he could confidently tell the Corinthian believers that no matter what they might have to go through, no matter the trial or the persecution, God is faithful.  In verse one we read the name of Sosthenes, who was probably Paul’s secretary who transcribed this letter for him. Sosthenes was a Christian from Corinth, who had been beaten there for his faith in Jesus (Acts 18:17).  He also knew that God was faithful. All throughout Scripture we see believers finding this true in their lives. Abraham saw that God faithfully kept His promise to him. David, Elijah, Jeremiah, they each found Him faithful to protect them and that He kept His promises.  Each of the apostles and many of the New Testament saints faced persecution and martyrdom for their faith in Jesus, yet God was still faithful to them to the end. There is not one single promise in Scriptures that God has failed to keep. Our family may abandon us some day.  Our friends may forsake us. We can be confident, though, that God is faithful and we can surely depend on Him in each and every situation we are in just as Paul did.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Waiting Patiently

Psalm 40:1-3

Patience.  That is a word that most of us do not like to hear, at least not too often.  We’ve become a society that likes to move at lightning speed. We want our food right away, and to eat it right in the car, no longer eating at home around the dinner table after cooking the meal for an hour or so.  Ever since emails started to become popular in the late 1980’s, we’ve wanted our correspondence instantaneously, as well. Letters sent by regular mail have become a thing of the past, and young people laugh that the folks a hundred years ago used to wait over a week to get a piece of mail from across the country.  Businesses don’t have to wait anymore for important documents, as we scan them over the internet, and they are just as legal as the originals. Nobody wants to wait anymore. Nobody, that is, except God. Today’s psalm is one written by King David, who learned that God is never in a hurry.

As our world gets faster and faster, racing completely around the world in a matter of a few hours, we also want God to be that fast with His response to our prayers, as well.  We pray to God and want an answer right away. Whether it is for healing, a job, or no matter what it is, we get frustrated and lose our patience if we don’t get a response immediately.  However, that is not God’s way. The Bible is replete with examples of God having many of His children wait for answers to prayer. David, the author of today’s Scripture, is one example.  When he was a teen-aged youth, the prophet Samuel had anointed him to be king, but many years passed before that happened. David frequently had to flee the murderous wrath of King Saul. Saul’s attacks continued on for many years before they came to an end.  Some other examples of patient waiting in Scriptures are Abraham and Sarah who waited decades for the birth of their promised son. Moses waited patiently for 40 years in the land of Midian as a shepherd before God sent him back into Egypt to lead the children of Israel out of bondage.  God’s people waited hundreds of years before the promised Messiah came.

Why do we have to wait so long before God answers?  One reason is that God wants us to develop a closer, more dependent relationship with Him.  That can happen as we wait patiently for the Lord, praying daily, bringing our concerns and burdens to Him, and laying them at the foot of His throne.  If God answered instantaneously every time we came to Him, then we would start to take Him for granted. He would become just like a butler or house servant, who when the master snaps his fingers, they come running to do his bidding.  He becomes like a heavenly genie, who we only turn to when we need something.

As we read in verse 2 of our psalm, David is in terrible trouble.  He describes it as a “horrible pit” filled with “miry clay”. Imagine a deep pit filled with wet, slippery mud that you are struggling to get out of.  No matter how hard you try to climb the sides, the slick mud keeps causing you to slip and slide back down, and you can’t get out no matter how hard you try.  Perhaps you are even sinking deeper and deeper into the mud, and within a brief while it’s to your knees, then your waist, then higher and higher. You can’t help yourself.  You pray and pray as you sink deeper and deeper. David was in some type of dilemma that felt just like being in such a terrible pit. He prayed and prayed to the Lord for deliverance.  We can tell that the answer was not immediate, as David says that he waited.

David not only waited, but the Bible says that he waited patiently.  Patient waiting and trust throughout his life had drawn David into a close and loving relationship with the Lord.  He knew that he didn’t need to fear. He knew that God would rescue him before it was too late. God rarely ever rushes.  Often we have to wait for His answers. When we wait for God patiently, we show that we trust Him. Throughout the time that he had to wait, David didn’t give in to loud and long complaints, either (vs. 3).  Instead he learned to praise God. He could have complained that God let him sink in the pit for awhile. He could have complained that God let him fall into that pit to begin with. Instead, though, David sang songs of praise to God.  Praise during a difficult time is often a key to answered prayer. Praise to God will send demons fleeing!

God desires to rescue His beloved children when they are in the pits that the enemy sets, and even ones that we have dug ourselves.  He will never leave us in that pit, nor let us sink to where the miry clay has gone over our head. We need to wait for His timing, and also remember that He is never too late.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

A Sword And An Arrow

Isaiah 49:1-7

Various different jobs and professions use all types of tools to help them get their work done.  These tools need to be kept in good condition if they are going to work and help the person using them.  A carpenter must keep his saws sharp, an artist his paint brushes clean, a dressmaker her sewing machine in good condition.  Work tools need to be kept in their proper place, ready to be used, or else they are useless. In today’s Scripture passage from the prophet Isaiah, I want to focus mainly on verse 2, and two tools that God mentions He wants to use.  Let’s take a look at these together.

God has a work which He wishes to accomplish in the world, and that is the salvation of souls.  In order to achieve that He needs tools. Christians, those who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, are the tools that God uses to spread the message of salvation to the lost.  In order to be used, though, we need to be tools that are in good working order, or else we are of no use to Him.

The first of the two tools God speaks of in verse 2 is a sharp sword.  Isaiah says that the mouth is like a sharp sword. The mouth is used primarily for two things, eating and speaking, and here we are referring to speaking.  When the Lord Jesus came to earth, the message He brought was told to His twelve apostles, and the other disciples who followed Him. Before Jesus left the earth to return to heaven, He told them that they were to go out into the world and teach others His message of salvation (Matthew 28:18-20).    People, though, cannot believe and be saved if they do not hear the message. The Apostle Paul very clearly stated that dilemma, that people need to hear the message, and they can’t hear it if no one is preaching or teaching it (Romans 10:14-15). God needs a useful and ready tool. He needs a good sword coming from the mouth of believers.

Why a sword?  That is an odd picture of a sword coming from a mouth.  People sometimes say that someone else’s tongue is like a sharp sword, usually referring to them speaking nasty and cutting remarks.  That’s not the type of sword God wants coming out of our mouth! He wants us to be speaking the Word of God to others, bringing them the message of His redeeming love through His Son, Jesus Christ.  God has said that His Word, the Bible, is powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). The Holy Spirit can use words of Scripture to cut deep into the heart of someone who reads or hears it, turning them from sin and the world to the Lord.

This sword of the Lord needs to be kept sharp and well-honed.  A soldier from the past, when swords were used in battle, would have been in a bad spot if his sword blade was dull.  A rusty blade was not good, either. They would spend plenty of time before battle making sure that their sword was sharpened and polished.  The way to be sure that our sword of the Lord, the Bible, is sharp and polished is by reading and studying it each and every day. A dusty Bible that sits on the shelf untouched is a dull, rusty sword!

The other tool that Isaiah mentions in this passage is a polished arrow that is in a quiver.  Just like a sword, the points of an arrow also need to be kept sharp and polished. The shaft of the arrow also needs to be inspected, and kept smooth and polished so that when it is shot out of the bow it will sail smoothly to the target.  The feathers at the end of the arrow need to be kept in good shape, as well. And of course, the bow has to be well-tended to.

In olden times the bow and arrow was used both in battle and in hunting.  An arrow that sat in the quiver was useless. They had to be shot out in order to hit the target.  Isaiah tells how we are God’s polished arrows. To be used by the Lord we need to be put in the bow and shot out.  In other words, we need to be willing to go out and spread His message. Just sitting in the quiver, the arrow doesn’t get out and do what it’s supposed to do.  We are God’s arrows, and are supposed to be available to be “shot out” to bring His message to the world. If we are just sitting around, inside the “quiver”, we aren’t doing what we are supposed to do.  We need to be a sharp and polished arrow, a sharp sword, ready to be used by God for His purpose.

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Lamb Of God

Matthew 3:13-17

Our Gospel passage for this week gives the narrative of the baptism of Jesus.  This is one of the few events in Jesus’ life that is told in all four Gospels. Our account today comes from the Gospel of Matthew.

John the Baptist had a ministry of baptism and a call to repentance for a short while before Jesus came on the scene.  The message that John preached, and the baptisms that he performed to the people who came to him, was to show repentance, to show that one had turned away from their sins and were turning to God.  Then one day Jesus shows up in the crowds that gathered around John, and He steps in line to be baptized. The Holy Spirit had revealed to John the Baptist that Jesus was the Messiah, and thus he felt completely unqualified to be baptizing Him (vs. 13-14).  He felt, rather, that Jesus should be baptizing him.

John’s baptism was one of repentance.  Jesus was the sinless, spotless Lamb of God, and He would not need to partake of this ritual.  However, Jesus was identifying with sinners. He would bear mankind’s sin, and His own righteousness would be imputed to mankind.  This act of baptism was a necessary part of the righteousness that Jesus secured for sinners. John’s baptism of Jesus marked His first public identification with those whose sins He came to bear.

The Apostle John records in his Gospel that after Jesus’ baptism, John the Baptist pointed Him out to several of his own followers, calling Jesus the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36).  This is one of many titles that Jesus has, describing exactly who He is, and what He came to do. Ever since the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden, mankind has been a sinful creature.  Back in the Garden, after man had eaten the forbidden fruit, they made a weak and ineffectual attempt to cover their sin by making garments of fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). Man’s own attempts to atone for his sins has never worked.  Scripture tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin (Hebrews 9:22).

Right there in the Garden, God Himself took an innocent lamb, sacrificing it to make clothes in order to cover Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21).  Innocent blood shed to atone for sins. That was the price, the only price, that had to be paid for forgiveness of sins. That innocent animal was a symbolic representation of the Lord Jesus Christ.  All of the animals that were sacrificed on the altar in the Tabernacle, and later in the Temple, were a picture of the future sacrifice Jesus made on the Cross of Calvary. Every animal that was sacrificed was innocent, including especially that first one in the Garden of Eden.  They had done nothing, yet their blood was shed to atone for sins. Yet, as Scripture says, the blood of animals could not truly take away sins for men (Hebrews 10:4). We needed a human sacrifice, yet where could we find someone who had never sinned? That was the dilemma.

Jesus is God incarnate, God becoming human flesh as a man, yet at the same time remaining God.  Jesus, as a human, never sinned. Thus He was able to become that perfect sacrifice in order to pay the price for man’s sins.  He became the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Several different denominations have a beautiful prayer, often set to music, called the Agnus Dei, which is Latin for “Lamb of God”, which goes “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.  Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.”

It was here at His baptism that Jesus first showed the world that He, though the sinless Son of God, had come to bear the sins of mankind.  He identified with mankind, was one of us in all things except sin. He was, and is, the Lamb of God.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

No Favorites In God's Kingdom

Acts 10:34-38

Growing up did you ever feel that some of the adults in your life had favorites, and perhaps you were not in that select group?  Maybe you felt that the teacher had some students he or she favored, the “teacher’s pet”. Perhaps you came from a family with several siblings, and you felt that your parents favored one over the others, the one with better looks, skills, or grades.  When the neighborhood children would gather in the park and pick teams for a game, it would always be painful for the child who was picked last. Favoritism doesn’t end when one becomes an adult, as we can see it in the office place, as well. How about God?  Do you ever feel as if God has favorites? Let’s take a look at what Scripture says. Our passage today contains a message from St. Peter in the Book of Acts which should give us an answer to that question.

Just prior to when our passage opens God had directed Peter to go to the house of a gentleman, Cornelius, who was a Gentile, a non-Jewish person.  Gentiles were one group who, at that time, could feel as if God had favorites, and they sure weren’t it. The Jewish believers had, for several years after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, been reluctant to share the Gospel message of salvation with any Gentiles, as Jesus had instructed them to.  Now God had instructed Peter to go to Cornelius’ home and present them with the Gospel. Peter’s eyes and heart were opened up, and he realized that God’s message is for everyone.

What about today?  That was the past, back in the days of the early church.  Is it the same today? Does God welcome anyone into His Church?  If some one of us were to go into a church service that we don’t typically attend some Sunday morning in our community, or some church in the next village or the next state, or even in some other country, would we feel welcomed?  When Jesus was talking to His disciples He told them quite clearly that He had one flock (John 10:16).  He didn’t say He had several flocks, one for Jews, one for Gentiles, one for whites, one for blacks, one for Asians.  He didn’t say rich sheep over here, poor sheep over there, good looking up front. Jesus said that He had one flock and one Shepherd.  Over the years, though, we seem to have forgotten that. Religious division is not His idea. The only requirement to be a part of Jesus’ flock is accepting Him as Savior.  It is not what race or nationality we belong to. It is not whether we are rich or poor, or have multiple university degrees. Unfortunately many people today like to think that God’s flock would exclude this or that church denomination.  There are no separate areas in heaven, Anglicans over here, Lutherans over there, Roman Catholics to the right, Baptists to the left, etc. As long as any person holds to Biblical truths, God shows no partiality.

Those who really, genuinely seek God will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).  However, it is not enough to just seek God.  We must find Him.  Believers must be ready to tell those who seek God all about Him (Romans 10:14-15; I Peter 3:15).  Are we willing to tell those who are seeking the Good News about Jesus? Do we let prejudicial barriers stand in the way?  How can someone find God if we aren’t pointing the way?

The Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone!  We should not allow any barriers - language, cultural differences, geography, economic or educational level keep us from telling others about Jesus.

Monday, January 13, 2020


Psalm 89

“She promised me she would do this!”  “He gave me his word that he would do that!”  How often do we hear promises from others that they would do this or that, only to see that never happen?  A boss promises an employee something, a parent promises a child something, a friend, a spouse, so many people make promises, yet they are quickly broken or forgotten.  A man or woman of their word, of integrity, is sometimes not too easy to find. It is easy to become cynical. We can take comfort, though, that when God makes a promise, He will keep it.  In our psalm for this week, Psalm 89, we read of one particular promise that He made, that of the Messiah through the family line of King David.

God had promised King David that his descendants would reign on the throne forever (vs. 3-4, 19-29, 33-37).  However, King Rehoboam, his grandson through King Solomon, lost half of the kingdom. Then within a few hundred years, Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the people taken into captivity by Babylon, and the Davidic dynasty came to a disgraceful end.  They were punished because of their continual disobedience, but God never broke faith with them. Despite their rampant idolatry and evil, the nation divided and later being exiled, there was always a faithful, godly remnant. God can always be trusted to keep His Word.

As most of us have found out at one time or another, people will fail us.  We soon find out that everyone, at one time or another, will let us down and that they are not always reliable.  The people of Israel could have looked at what had happened to their kings, and believed that the promises of God were no better than those of anyone else.  God, however, is reliable and dependable. He will never let us down. It may have looked like, from a human standpoint, that this promise went by the wayside.  Sometimes it looks like His promises to us have gone that way, as well. However, the eternal throne and kingdom God was talking about here was not an earthly throne with an earthly king.  It was a heavenly throne with a heavenly king, the Messiah, the Son of God. God fulfilled His promise to David through Jesus Christ (vs. 35-36). Jesus fulfilled over 300 Biblical prophecies.

Sometimes the Lord needs to discipline us, just as He did Israel (vs. 30-33).  At those times it may seem as if God is hiding Himself. It sure did to the people of Israel then (vs. 46).  The throne was gone, the capital was gone, and the promise seemed to be, as well. However, God will never reject His Blood-bought children.  His mercy is everlasting (Hebrews 12:5-11). God did keep His promise through His Son, Jesus, born through the family line of David.

Just like David was chosen by God from among the common folk to become king, (vs. 19), Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth and became a man, like us.  He has become a brother to believers. We now have a brother in heaven! We may be poor, but He is rich! He is King! Jesus is a brother born for adversity.  He knows our wants and needs, and sympathizes with us.

God is always faithful and reliable, and will always keep His promises.  That is consistent with His very nature (vs. 5). Righteousness, justice, love, and faithfulness are part of God’s character and of His rule over creation (vs. 14-15).  As His children and believers, our actions should show that, as well. The Source of our security has not changed since this Psalm was written. God kept His Word and promises back then, and He keeps them today.  He is still the only certainty in this life. We can count on the One who is faithful, just, and loving.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Hope For The Discouraged

Isaiah 42:1-9

So many people, including believers, feel broken and bruised in life.  Life has been hard and harsh for them. They have been rejected by so many people, sometimes unfortunately, even by those in the Church.  The world just loves to crush those who are already down, and it is so easy to just give up all hope, feeling that even God has abandoned us.  All those who feel like this should take heart, though, as our passage today from Isaiah tells us.

As our passage opens, Isaiah introduces us to God’s Servant (vs. 1).  This servant of the Lord is the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is God’s Chosen One, in whom He delights.  Jesus had God’s Spirit upon Him all throughout His ministry. Isaiah proceeds to describe the character of this Servant.  When Jesus first came to earth 2,000 years ago He had a quiet and submissive demeanor (vs. 2). All throughout His ministry, Jesus was humble, and did not seek a “super-star” role.  He obeyed the Father in all things.

Jesus also brought comfort and encouragement to the weak and oppressed (vs. 3).  God lifts up those who are broken in spirit. He treats the broken with tenderness.  There are multitudes of people who feel like this. They are broken, weak, and oppressed with nowhere to turn.  Jesus calls them to Himself. “Come unto Me”, He says to us when we are weary and tired of the world kicking us down (Matthew 11:28-30).  God does not crush those who turn their hearts to Him. When we feel broken, bruised, and burned out, God won’t toss us out as useless. Many have felt used, abused, and tossed to the curb by others throughout their life.  However, God will never treat people that way. Jesus is gentle and encouraging. He is just and truthful.

Jesus fulfilled verses 1a and 2-3 at His first coming.  He will fulfill verses 1b and 4 at His second coming.  At that time Jesus will rule the earth with perfect justice.  In Jesus’ coming millennial kingdom all the nations of the world will experience the righteousness and justice of the Messiah.  As verse 6 says, Jesus is the Mediator of a better covenant than the one that came through Moses (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:6).  Jesus came to be a light to the Gentiles (Luke 2:32). For countless centuries they had been in spiritual darkness. Jesus offers salvation to everyone, Jewish, Gentile, male, female, with no discrimination (Galatians 3:28).

Jesus frequently brought physical healing to the blind.  However, what is more important is that He brought spiritual sight to the spiritually blind (vs. 7).  All religions that who do not hold to the truth of God’s Word, the Bible, only bring spiritual blindness.  Yahweh does not, and will not, share worship with the beliefs of any false religion (vs. 8). When we turn to Jesus, and only Jesus, for salvation, the Light of His Truth will come shining through into our souls, and we receive sight.

Jesus set those who were spiritually captive free.  Sometimes we need to be set free from things that hold us captive, such as addictions, bad relationships, debt, etc.  We often cannot do it in our own power. Jesus has come to set the captive free. If we know someone who is in some type of bondage, as believers, we need to pray fervently for them.  Prison bars cannot withstand the power of God. He can break the strongest of chains. We must claim Jesus’ victory in our life and walk in His light. He has set us free!

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Boy Jesus In The Temple

Luke 2:41-52

Our passage from the Gospel of Luke today is the only mention of Jesus’ life from between his birth and His baptism and start of His ministry.  The Scriptures have remained silent about any events and happenings during Jesus’ childhood, youth, and young adulthood, with the exception of this one event.  There have been some, generally fanciful, extra-biblical legends about some events in Jesus’ childhood, which no reliable Christian denomination holds as true and authoritative.   Let’s take a look at this single account from the childhood of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke.

Our passage begins with Jesus and His family traveling from their home in Nazareth south to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover (vs. 41-42).  Devout Jews would try, if possible, to go to Jerusalem for the religious festivals, particularly the Passover. They would travel in large caravans with friends, relatives, and neighbors for protection and safety.  The distance between Nazareth and Jerusalem is approximately 65 miles. This trip was made on foot, and would take several days, especially since devout Jews would take a longer route than the 65 mile direct route in order to avoid going through areas where the Samaritans lived.  While the caravans would travel going and returning the women and children would tend to be together, and the men with each other.

On this one occasion during the family’s trip to Jerusalem for Passover when Jesus was twelve years old, Mary and Joseph packed up and left with the group, inadvertently leaving without Jesus being with them (vs. 43-44).  His parents must have thought that Jesus was with the other one, since at age twelve He could conceivably been in either group, walking with a friend of His and their family. Jesus’ lingering was neither mischievous nor disobedient, but simply a mistaken presumption on the part of His parents.

Imagine the worry and fear that was going through both Mary and Joseph.  Where could He be? They searched up and down every street and alley, in every possible shop that He might be interested in.  Finally, they go to the Temple where they find Jesus talking with the teachers, scribes and elders. This is the first place they should have looked for Him!  Jesus was not hiding nor being defiant. He did precisely what any child should do who had been left behind - go to a safe, public place, in the company of trusted adults, where His parents could find Him.  Jesus was not being insolent, either. He was genuinely surprised that they didn’t know where to look for Him (vs. 48-49). At age twelve, Jesus had a clear consciousness of His identity and mission. Mary and Joseph knew that Jesus was God’s Son, but at this time they could not possibly have known what His mission would involve.  They had to raise Him as a normal child. They knew He was unique, but they did not know what was going on in His mind.

Here Jesus was, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Triune God, talking with the Temple teachers and elders, asking and answering questions.  Jesus is God, but He was respectful, taking the role of a student (vs. 46). Even at His young age, Jesus’ questions showed wisdom that put the teachers to shame.  God’s wisdom is astounding. The teachers of the Old Testament Law and Temple scholars were amazed at Jesus’ insights (vs. 47). The Lord’s knowledge and understanding are available to all Christians who believe with faith (Proverbs 9:10).  If we need God’s wisdom for a situation, then we need to trust and obey Him, and He will reveal Himself to us if we seek Him.

Jesus was the Son of God, but while living on earth as a child, He placed Himself under the care and authority of His earthly mother and stepfather, Mary and Joseph (vs. 51).  Jesus submitted to them, not as an inferior, but as an example of obedience to us. Jesus was both fully divine and fully human (vs. 52). He had a normal childhood and adolescence.  Jesus went through the same progressions we all do. As our passage concludes, Luke gave us just a small peek into the “hidden years” of Jesus, the time between His birth in Bethlehem to the start of His ministry, some 30+ years later. We are shown a young man who was obedient to His parents, and also had God’s wisdom and understanding.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

What Christ Has Given Us

Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-20

Imagine your boss at work has just given you an assignment to fulfill, or you are taking an art class and have been given a project to do.  How can I do this work if I don’t have the equipment needed? I don’t have the right tools or all the information I need. I want to go on a camping trip, but I don’t have the right equipment.  What can I do? Then the boss or the art teacher tells me that I do have the material, it’s right there in a box by the work table, or in folders on my desk, or the camping equipment already packed in my car.  It has already been given to me. What about living my Christian life? After becoming a Christian, how am I able to follow that path, and live a victorious Christian life?  How can I accomplish that? In our passage today from Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, we can see what God has given us in order to live a victorious life.

After we become a Christian, it sometimes might seem like a daunting task to follow the Lord, obey His Word, and live for Him.  How can I do it? How do I love as I should, forgive others, and live with the fruits of the Spirit active in my life? We do have all that we need to live victoriously, though.  Jesus has already secured for us every spiritual blessing that God has available for believers (vs. 3). Here are some of the blessings we have through Christ: We have the privilege of knowing God intimately.  We were chosen for salvation, and have been adopted into God’s family as His children. God has granted us forgiveness of sins, given us spiritual insights into His Scriptures, and all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  We have the power to do God’s will, and the hope of living forever with Jesus (vs. 4-6).

These are blessings we can enjoy now.  They come from God in heaven, not from any earthly source.  No one can steal them from us, or hold them back. We need to stop living like spiritual paupers, as if we have nothing.  If we wish to enjoy all that has been given to us, we must delight ourselves in the Lord our Savior. God’s abundant blessings belong only to believers who are His children by faith in Christ.  What He has is also ours.

We are not saved because we deserve it.  God graciously and freely gives salvation to all who come to Him through Jesus Christ.  Unrighteous people are declared righteous, unworthy sinners are declared worthy through the imputed righteousness of Jesus, granted us in salvation.  We cannot take credit or pride in our salvation. God chose us before creation (vs. 4). The mystery of salvation originated in the timeless mind of God long before we existed.  We were marked out beforehand, chosen, and adopted into God’s family (vs. 5). God graciously accepts us, even though we don’t deserve it, now that we belong to His Son.

There is a big difference between having the blessings of God and actually enjoying them.  We need to learn what blessings God has provided for us, and then laying hold of them by faith (vs. 18).  The more that we know of Jesus, the more we will be like Him. The hope we have through Jesus is a complete assurance of certain victory through God, not merely wishful thinking.

Paul prayed that we will know the power of God, and know Him (vs. 19-20).  This is the power that defeated death, raised Jesus to life, and can now work in the lives of believers.  We can know the power of God in our lives today, and we can trust that He can and will help us with all that concerns us.  God’s incomparable power, that same power that raised Jesus from death, is available to help us in any need. Nothing is too difficult for Him.  If death was not too difficult for Him, then certainly nothing we face today is either.

God has abundantly blessed us with all spiritual blessings.  Jesus offers us abundant life now (John 10:10). We need to be living like it, live like we have His abundant life.  We can tap into the endless supply of God’s grace. Eternity begins the moment we are saved. We don’t need to wait until heaven to enjoy God’s blessings.  These blessings are ours. We use other tools to help us in our life. We need to take hold upon all that God has given us in order to live the life God wishes us to.

Monday, January 6, 2020

A Refuge In Times Of Trouble

Psalm 91

This world in which we live in can often feel like a scary place, where troubles of all sorts abound.  Turn the evening news on TV, or go to any news website and what do we hear? The threat of war, or actual conflicts between nations or groups of people.  Wildfires, flooding, various types of dangerous storms all across the globe. Shootings and killings in the streets of big cities. Terrorist attacks. All of these, plus our own worries that we carry with financial and various health issues we deal with.  Sometimes we may wish that we could run to a safe place where the problems and fears cannot reach us. The author of our psalm today had similar fears that he faced, just like we do - war, enemies, illness. He wanted to run, too. Where did he run to? Let’s take a look at our psalm and see.

When we are outside walking, and a heavy thunderstorm comes, we will try to find a place of shelter to get in from the pouring rain.  How about when the storms of life happen? We need to take shelter then, too, but where? What can protect us then? Many of the things people try, such as drugs, alcohol, illicit relationships, all prove to be worthless, and only bring more trouble.  Our psalmist sought shelter and refuge in the Lord God (vs. 1-2). To him, Yahweh was a refuge, a place he could run to when any of life’s storms started to rage. He also called God his fortress. In times past, when cities had walls around them, they would have a fortress, where the townsfolk could run to when an enemy attacked the city.  The walls were thick, and they could be safe from attack. Yahweh is our fortress. With Him as our Savior, we are safe from the attack of any enemy, especially the enemy of our souls, Satan.

Our psalmist sought a “secret place” with God (vs. 1).   That is a place of close, intimate communion and fellowship with Him.  The way we dwell in the secret place is through continuous thanksgiving, praise, and worship.  This will lead us into constant communion with Him. When we are in the presence of the Lord, we have nothing to fear.  The power of the Presence of God will take away all despair and doubt as we fellowship with Him.

As our Scripture passage continues, we read of some of the things that the psalmist was afraid of.  He feared being trapped by his enemies, just like a bird is trapped (vs. 3). He feared being hit by an arrow or enemy weapons (vs. 5), and also deadly diseases (vs. 6).  These are fears that we have today, as well. Enemies of ours can plot against us, laying a trap or snare to catch us. Today the worry would be more one of bullets that fly (vs. 5), rather than arrows.  Whether it is in a time of war, or from criminals or street gangs, that is a fear many have. Deadly diseases strike today, just as swiftly as they did centuries ago (vs. 6). These problems and attacks come at all times of the day and night (vs. 5-6).

What did our psalmist do with these fears?  Did he let them drive him into a frenzy of panic?  No! Instead, he took refuge in Yahweh. He imagined himself seeking refuge in God like a chick seeking shelter under the mother bird’s wings.  God is like a shield around us, protecting us from attacks (vs. 4). His protection is round-the-clock, day or night makes no difference to Him.

As we read this psalm, we see the promise of God’s protection from harm, danger, and pestilence.  Yet we see believers who fall ill from deadly diseases, we hear of believers who die in accidents, who get murdered.  What happened? Why weren’t they protected? For the believer, nothing can happen without God’s direction. Nothing can harm a child of God unless the Lord permits it.  We might not understand now why something unfortunate happens to some people, but we can rest assured that He works all things for good in the life of His children (Romans 8:28).

When we are in trouble, God is ready and waiting to help us (vs. 15).  We don’t have to try and convince Him to come to our aid. He is a Father who loves His children.  When we are anxious and worried, remember in Whom we dwell - the Lord God Almighty. His Word is true and sure.  We can find refuge and comfort under His wings. Let’s trade in our fears, no matter how intense they may be, for faith in God.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Send The Light!

Isaiah 60:1-6, 9

For those who follow the Liturgical calendar, tomorrow marks the Feast of Epiphany.  This Christian holy day not only celebrates when the magi came to worship the Christ Child, but also, and very importantly, the physical manifestation of Jesus the Messiah to the Gentiles.  In the Old Testament times, Yahweh had specifically revealed Himself to the Jewish people. They were to be His lights and messengers to the rest of the world. Now, through Jesus, the door has been thrown wide open for the Gentiles.  Now, both Jew and Gentile can come directly to the Father, through Jesus, His Son. The magi who came to worship the infant Jesus were the first Gentiles to see His Light.

In our passage today from the Prophet Isaiah, we read that the people of the world are in a deep and great darkness.  However, a light arises from the Lord. He brings a light to those who dwell in darkness. At the time of Isaiah, several centuries before the birth of Jesus, the world was in darkness.  They were in moral darkness and spiritual darkness. The Gentile world had no spiritual light, worshipping all sorts of idols. The Jewish people had the Word of God, but only a remnant chose to follow it.  So many of them were in just as much spiritual and moral darkness as their Gentile neighbors. The coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, brought light, both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.

With the exception of when one wants to sleep, or when looking at stars at night through a telescope, most people do not like to be in the dark.  Few mentally healthy people would choose to sit in the dark for hours at a time. Instead, we turn on a light. If one gets lost out in a rural area at night, we’re told to look for a light in the distance, and then go towards it.  Frequently in Scriptures darkness and night are synonymous with sin and evil. To be living in darkness is to be living with sin in one’s life, to be apart from God and His truth and righteousness.

Just as in the physical world we do not need to sit in darkness, and can turn on a light to bring brightness to a room, we do not need to remain in spiritual and moral darkness either.  God sent a light into the world in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Reading His Words in the Gospels, and by accepting and following the message He brought, we can have light to cast out the darkness in our souls.

There is just as much darkness in the world today as there was in Isaiah’s day.  2700 years later, things have not changed that much. My family and I frequently watch the evening news, and we see that darkness still covers the land.  Sin and evil are still rampant. God has given us the Light, in and through His Son, Jesus. Why do people prefer to remain in the dark? We have to choose to come to the Light.

This is where us believers have to step in.  We have the Light. We need to share it throughout the world.  In the verses from the passage in Isaiah, some strange sounding places were named, places like Midian, Ephah, Tarshish.  Those were far-off foreign countries in Isaiah’s day. Tarshish was present day Spain and the Straits of Gibraltar. That was the fringes of the known world at that time, about as far away as one could go.  Yet Isaiah said that the Light God was giving would stretch to all of these places. God wanted His message, His Light, to go forth everywhere. That has not changed today.

When people step out of the darkness of sin, and into the Light of Jesus, they will, as Isaiah says, become radiant, and their hearts swell with joy (vs. 5).  They shall proclaim the praises of the Lord (vs. 6). We have a responsibility to spread the good news of Jesus to the far fringes of the world, to “bring sons from afar” (vs. 9), as Isaiah said.  Too many people are living in darkness. We see it with every news story we hear. As the old Gospel hymn says, we need to “Send the Light!”