November 18, 2020

Micah 7:18
Who is like Jehovah?” That is what Micah means. Evidently his parents wanted to make sure that Micah never forgot that truth. He was reminded of it every time he heard or wrote his name— Who is like Jehovah?” The answer obviously was no one, especially not the false gods of the heathen!
He came from Moresheth, a town on the Philistine border and, therefore, constantly threatened by those ancient foes of Israel. And besides the words that he spoke, that is all we know about this man, just his name and his address, and the fact that he was a prophet.
We can sense his reaction when God called him: “Me? Why do you want me? After all, you’ve got Isaiah, and he’s a very big prophet indeed. Moreover, he is cousin to the king, he has friends in high places, he is eloquent in the Scriptures, and he has a tremendous grasp of current events. Why do you want me?” The answer, of course, was that the Old Testament Law required a twofold witness before truth could be established.
Already the shadow of Assyria lay over the land of the Hebrew people. Weak King Ahaz of Judah, alarmed by the alliance of Syria and Israel against him, and disdainful of Isaiah’s warnings, had appealed to Assyria for help. It was a foolish thing to do, like inviting the cat into the cage to keep peace between the canaries.
But if the Assyrians were coming, so was God. His feet would soon be “trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath were stored ”! The worship of Baal, of foul Ashtaroth, and of fierce Moloch had taken over the land. God was coming in wrath. The earth had already begun shake beneath His feet. Volcanoes erupted. The stones cried out. And dark was His path on the wings of the storm.
The swirling vortex of the approaching storm was directed at Samaria-beautiful Samaria drowning in the vileness, the violence, and the of its false and futile faiths. Its massive temple of Baal has been paid for by the hire of her harlot priestess.
Worse still, all this religious infamy had now been imported into Judah. And neither godly King Hezekiah nor the great and gifted Isaiah could stem the rising tide of wickedness in the land.

Even while, Micah was preaching, weak King Abaz, father of Hezekiah was busy importing a pagan altar from Damascus. Solomon’s great brazen altar was to be pushed out of the way and this heathen altar installed in its place.
No wonder the Assyrians were coming, The prophet made puns of the place names, places in the path of the coming conqueror, Puns such as “rolling in the dust at Dust-Town”; “falsehoods paid for at Falsehood Town”: and so on (1: 10, 14). There was, however, another ‘town that told a better tale and Micah is the one who put that town forever on the map. The town was Bethlehem! There, in that little backwoods Judean town, ‘the Christ of God would one day enter into human life. Micah said so.
Then Micah remembered an unrecorded and almost forgotten fragment of an old Bible tale. It was the story of Balaam, the Mesopotamian psychic, and his wily employer, King Balak of Moab. Moses had told the ‘tale of Balaam and his sins, his sermons, and his final suggestion. But Micah remembered another sermon this pagan prophet preached. “What would God take as fair payment for my sins?” the King of Moab sked. Then, like a desperate man haggling for something he desires, the king kept on raising his offer. Finally, he reached his limit. He would have his firstborn son on the altar of sacrifice; the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul. “If you wish to buy your salvation, my lord king, the prophet had replied, “then do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before God.” This was God’s message to His people. But it was too late for Israel. Judgment was on the way.
Micah makes one more pun before he puts down his pen, a pun indeed, on his very own name: “Who is a God like unto thee, that delighteth in mercy.’ This was the rainbow shining forth on the wings of the storm, the promise of grace in the midst of wrath to come.

November 17, 2020

Amos 3:3
In the days of Amos, both Israel and Judah appeared to be prosperous. Jerobam II ruled Israel; and King Uzziah, one of Judah’s handful of godly kings, reigned in Jerusalem. But it was all deceptive. Corruption and decay had advanced to the point in Israel where there was no remedy. Judgment was inevitable. Temporary revivals in Judah would postpone that country’s fall, but the rot had already gone too deep in Israel. 
When revival is no longer an option, God sends ruin. Already, over, the distant northern skyline, the Assyrian army was preparing to march. Its arrival would bring vengeance, and Amos knew it to be so. For centuries Israel and Judah had been made up of fighting farmers. Theirs had been a rural economy and lifestyle. Life had been generally simple and wholesome. But now society had become urbanized, sophisticated, and worldly-wise. It was a situation that heralded judgment to come. Amos himself was a farmer. He was also very poor.
He was what we would call a cowboy or a herdsman. His hometown was perched on the edge of a fearful desert. What he saw of urban society shocked and outraged him. We can imagine the effect he had on high society in sophisticated Samaria when he came clomping into the halls of polite people in his cowboy boots and when he addressed the cultured court women as “ye kine of Bashan” (4:1)—that is, “you barnyard cows!”
Nevertheless, we suspect that he was received, at first, with some enthusiasm in Israel, for he began by denouncing the surrounding cites and nations of Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and even Judah. But when he turned on Israel, it was a different story. The Israelites were furious. By the time his scathing tongue lashed out at them, the Israelites “cognized his formula—“For three transgressions … and for four.” It expressed a Hebrew idiom. It means that the cup of God’s wrath was not only full; it was more than full.
Amos was fond of using illustrations, usually drawn from desolate desert scenes familiar to him since boyhood days. For instance, he remembered once seeing a shepherd saving from the maw of a glutted lion all that was left of a sheep-a pair of shinbones and the tattered fragment of an ear (3:12). That was all. And that was what Israel could look forward to, when the Assyrians were finished with them.
He pictures also, a city after the Army of Assyria had ravished it. He describes a house of ten family members with only one survivor. He sees that wretched man, ravished by the plague, cowering in some dark corner. A relative comes to burn the bodies of the dead; but the relative hovers outside, afraid to go in lest he, too,
should catch the plague. He calls, The sole survivor is terrified. He is afraid that the echoing voice will precipitate some new horror. “Hush! ” he says. “Be quiet” (6:9-10).
Like Joel and others, Amos saw the day of the Lord and pictures the terror of end-time events. He sees a man fleeing from a lion, only to run into the arms of a bear. He pictures a fleeing man leaning, exhausted, against a wall, only to be bitten by a serpent. He sees a man praying; but, alas, he does not know God, and the Bible is, to him, an unknown book. How can he pray (5:19-23)?
All of this was the end result of the calf cult that had slowly poisoned the whole northern kingdom. It has been founded on a wholesale allocation of Bible-twisting, liberal theology. No wonder that the sight of the golden calf in Bethel gave wings to the prophets words. So where Hosea preached love, Amos preached law. While Hosea was full of feeling, Amos was full of facts. Where Hosea went into the house for his illustrations, Amos scoured the nations and the wilds.
If God were to send a modern cowboy to stalk the halls of Congress and the White House with a message for America, what would that man say? He would probably preach what Amos preached – wrath! Wrath is already on its way!

November 16, 2020

Joel 1:15
Joel looms up out of nowhere, raises his voice, and then vanishes back into the shadows. He seems to have been the very first of the writing rophets. He wrote six dozen verses, that’s all. But for all that, this so called minor prophet was the herald of a major departure in the prophetic world. Joel wrote things down. 
Shakespeare makes the envious Cassius say about Julius Caesar: “Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus”! The same could have been said of Joel.
Two days occupied Joel—just two days. The first was the day of the locust. There had been rumors in Israel of a brewing plague in the southeastern deserts of the Middle East. Then one day the sky turned black and the locusts arrived. They descended by the millions on farm and field and forest. They covered the ground to a depth of one and a half feet. They ate every stalk and every stem, every leaf and every twig. “Incarnate hunger” best describes what they were. When at last they moved on, they left utter devastation in their wake. It was a divine visitation and a herald of more to come.
Then there was the day of the Lord. Half a dozen prophets talk about this day, but it was Joel who mentioned it first. Four concepts whirled in Joel’s mind as he thought of this great judgment to come.
First, there were fading voices. It was only a matter of decades since the days of Elijah and Elisha. These two men, armed with might and miracle, had been a nine-day wonder in Israel. People remembered their miracles; but few remembered their message. Joel saw the need to write things down, to give people something more important than miracles, to give them a book.
The comfortable little Palestinian world was changing, and the age of the superpowers had arrived. The hostile neighboring countries of Moab, and Edom, and the like are nothing compared with Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome. Joel saw it coming on the wings of the wind, the destruction and the desolation, and the deportation, all the inevitable fruit of apostasy. God’s people would need something to hold on to. So, where Elijah produced miracles Joel produced a manuscript. 
Then there were former values. God had planned for Israel to be located in the crossroads of the continent so that they might be a testimony to all mankind, the world’s schoolmaster to bring people from many nations to Christ. A century of liberal theology, however had rendered Israel apostate and impotent. The old landmarks had been removed, the old faith had been replaced, and the old values had been erased. It called for judgement. 
So now the nation faced fearful vengeance. Had Israel remained true to its call, these Gentile superpowers would have come; but they would have come, not as warriors, but as worshipers. Before it was too late, Israel must repent. It was still too late in Joel’s day, but it was “repent-or else!
But Joel still had some good news. There were to be future visitations. His most important prophecy had to do with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It took eight hundred years for Joel prophecy of Pentecost to be fulfilled. But the outpouring did come, and we are living in the reality of it to this day. Thank you Joel. There was nothing minor about you!

November 13, 2020

Hosea 1:1-11
A century and a half had come and gone since Jeroboam I had torn ten of the trines away from the throne of David to form the northern kingdom of Israel. Some fourteen kings had come and gone. Some had been weak, some had been warlike, but all had been wicked, Jeroboam had set the trend. He introduced the cult of the golden calf. It was a bad beginning. Later on, Ahab had introduced Jezebel and promoted the false worship of Baal. Now Jeroboam II was on the throne and, though outwardly strong, he had been weighed in the balance and found wanting, so God sent along a prophet, Hosea by name. His task was to show the king, the court, and the country just what God thought of them The prophet had a tragedy in his home life. It was a full-length portrait of the tragedy in his homeland. A look at what Hosea’s home life was like tells us all we need to know as to what his homeland was like. Hosea had no illusions regarding the state of his homeland. It was apostate.
As a young preacher, Hosea felt the need for a wife, someone to support him and to share with him in what he was sure would be a difficult ministry. The Spirit of God confirmed his leading and, shortly afterward, Hosea met Gomer. Probably the kind of wife Hosea envisioned for himself was someone like Sarah or Miriam or Jochabed or Deborah, some strong believer in God.
But his choice was Gomer. It seemed a good enough choice, for her name meant “completion.” No doubt he thought she would complete him, bringing strength where he felt weakness, goodness where he was inclined to stray. So Gomer won his heart, and God confirmed to him that she was the one he should marry. What a shock he received! “A wife of whoredoms” is the Holy Spirit’s later assessment of her. She was a woman given to a promiscuous lifestyle.
Whether Hosea knew it or not, we cannot be sure. If he did, doubtless he deluded himself into thinking he would change her. After all, Rahab had been a harlot, but she became a true mother in Israel and a giant of the faith. Gomer, however, broke Hosea’s heart.
That was the supreme truth he was to show to Israel. He became a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, He was married to a wife of whoredoms. Painfully he learned that sin not only breaks God’s laws; it breaks Gods heart. So Hosea married Gomer. The tragedy in his home life had begun.
A boy was born, and the prophet called him Jezreel. Jezreel was the name of a place of fearful associations, Naboth’s vineyard had been there. The battle of Armageddon will be fought there. But by now, Gomer was tired of restraint, and Hosea had to put up with her moods. In time, a second child was born. Hosea had grave doubts as to this girl’s parentage, so he called her “Lo-ruhamah.” The name means “not loved” and suggests she never knew a father’s love.
Then Gomer became a woman of the streets, and Hosea disowned her third child altogether. “Lo-Ammi” (“not my people”) he called this boy, indicating he was no child of the prophet. The names of these children were prophetic messages addressed to apostate Israel. They warned of vengeance, of being strangers to God, and of being disowned by Him.
Gomer sank deeper and deeper into the mire until she gave herself up totally to vice. Then she became a drunkard and sold herself into prostitution. Hosea loved her still. In the end, he bought her from her owner for a few pennies—all she was worth—and took her to his home. He cleaned her up and gave her a bed. “I’ve bought you,” he told her. “I still love you. But I don’t want a slave. It’s a wife that I want. I know how to wait.” Thus God loved Israel, and thus He loves the world. “[Love] suffereth long, and is kind,” He says (I Cor. 13:4). His love never lets us go. lt pursues us even into the far country. “His love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust,” as one translator puts it. It never fails.

November 12, 2020

The River
Ezekiel 47:1-12
The scene here is millennial. Its scope is monumental. Ezekiel’s closing end-time visions are focused on the awesome temple yet to grace the earth when Jesus will reign “from the river unto the ends of the earth” (Ps. 72:8). It is the river that thrills the prophet here. It flows out from the temple, and it brings life and loveliness everywhere it goes. Obviously, however, there must be more to it than that. And so there Is.
In the Bible, God the Father is likened to a fountain of living water (Jer. 2:13). God the Son is likened to a well of living water (John 4:14), and God the Holy Spirit is likened to a river of living water (John 7:37—39).
The eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles was always a Sunday, It was kept as a special Sabbath, and it was the great, climactic conclusion of all the festivities of the year. On each of the first seven days, the priests brought vessels of water from the pool of Siloam and poured them out in a river over the steps of the temple. Jesus seized upon this activity to introduce His people to the Holy Spirit, who was soon to replace Him on earth as resident member of the Godhead.
Coming back now to the end-time river Ezekiel saw coming out of the future millennial temple, there are four things we can learn about the river of the Spirit. Note, first, the gencral direction of the river. The prophet stepped into this life-giving stream until the water was to his ankles. His walk was now controlled by the river. Where it went, he went. He followed its leading, treading a path of obedience. It was the path that Jesus trod from the virgin womb of Mary in Bethlehem to the virgin tomb of Joseph in Jerusalem. It is that path of obedience we must tread if we would know more of the Spirit of God.
We note, also, the growing dominance of the river. The prophet walked out a thousand cubits deeper into the river. The water was now to his knees, The knees remind us of submission—“Every knee should bow,” Paul says (Phil. 2:10-11)—and they remind us of supplication, for we bend our knees when we pray. Water to the knees brings us into deeper experience of the Holy Spirit. How little we know about praying in the Holy Spirit. “We know not what we should pray for as we ought,” Paul says (Rom. 8:26-27). The Holy Spirit must help our infirmities in this regard.
We note, next, the great dynamic of the river. Another thousand cubits into the river, and the water reaches to the loins. The full force of the river can now be felt. In Scripture the loins refers to the lower part of the back, the pivot of the whole body. The loins also refers to the seat of generative power, the seat of life. To have one’s “loins girt” in the Bible means to be ready for vigorous effort. Water to the loins takes us to an even deeper knowledge of the Holy Spirit as the one who provides power for service and for bringing people to the new birth,
Finally, we note the glorious design of the river. Another thousand cubits into the river and the prophet is in deep water—“waters to swim in.” When we swim we surrender ourselves wholly to the water. Our feet no longer cleave to the earth. Our whole body is at the disposal of the flowing stream. Moreover, when a person is swimming, all that can be seen is the person’s head. That is the glorious design of the Holy Spirit—that we should be so submerged in His will that all that can be seen is Jesus, our Head. We are thus borne along by the Spirit, buoyed up by the Spirit, and blessed by the Spirit of God. The result will be cleansing and fruitfulness everywhere.

November 11, 2020

Behold my Sorrow
Lamentations 1:12
It is nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.
We think first of the primary application of these words. They were spoken by Jeremiah, the weeping prophet of the Old Testament. All about him was a desolate, depopulated, and devastated city, The Babylonians had torn it to pieces, destroyed its glorious temple, deported its people, and defied its God. So much for all Jeremiah’s preaching! He had been reviled and afflicted by his own people, and now he roamed the corpsestrewn ruins of Jerusalem, abandoned to his grief. So great were his sorrows that a special book of the Bible was set apart to record them, the book of Lamentations. Truly Jeremiah was a man of sorrows.
We think, next, of the peripheral application of these words. Indeed, there are others whose stories are treasured up within the bounds of God’s book, people who learned through sufferings. There was Joseph, for instance. Doubtless, by the time of his mothet’s death, Joseph had learned to be afraid of his older brothers. They hated him and could not speak peaceably to him. As cautious as he had become, however, it is doubtful that he was prepared for their final, united onslaught on him. He never thought he would be flung into a pit, his princely mantle torn from his shoulders, and his fate fiercely debated by his brothers; and with murder on his brothers’ minds, the prospect of being hauled from the pit and sold into slavery in a foreign land never occurred to him. And then, once in that faraway land, he was falsely accused and flung into prison and left there to rot! Such were the sufferings of Joseph.
Then there was Jonah. True, he brought his suffering on himself; but it was nonetheless real and terrible. We can scarcely imagine the horror of his situation, to be swallowed alive and lost in the vast interior of a great fish, to be in the dark, awash with the debris of a great sea creature’s meals, to be scorched by its gastric juices, to be overwhelmed by the heat, and to be suffocated by the smell. No wonder he called it “the belly of hell” (Jonah 2:2). And the torment went on for three days and three nights. Certainly Jonah came very near to death. Such were the sutferings of Jonah.
And what about Job? Sorrow after sorrow surged in upon his soul, until—wealth gone, health gone, family gone, friends gone—he felt that God Himself had become his enemy. And all this for no apparent reason and, it seemed, with no foreseeable end. His friends hotly debated the cause of Job’s suffering and concluded that they could only be explained in terms of some horrendous secret sin in Job’s life—a conclusion he vehemently denied. Nobody divined the true cause of Job’s torment, or the triumphant conclusion that would be his. Such were the sufferings of Job.
This brings us to the prophetic application of these words: “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger. The sufferings of Jeremiah, the sufferings of Joseph, the sufferings of Jonah, and the sufferings of Job all pale before the sufferings of Jesus. Like Jeremiah, Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Like Joseph, He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. Like Jonah, all God’s waves and billows passed over Him, and He cried in utter desperation and desolation in total darkness, And, like Job, His sufferings were all undeserved. There was no sorrow like His.
Who can even begin to imagine the sufferings of Jesus when He, who Knew no sin, was made sin for us? Only God can know the full measure of that. Well might we borrow the language of the old hymn:
Oh, make me understand it, me to take it in; What it meant for Thee, the Holy One To take away my sin.

November 10, 2020

He and Me
Isaiah 53:4-6
He and Me! It is not very good grammar, perhaps, but it is very good gospel. Let us read what the prophet says putting the emphasis on ourselves.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  We have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on hum the iniquity of ws all.”
Amazing! All for us. But the statement becomes all the more amazing when we turn it around and put all the emphasis on Him. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows… He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed… . We have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
As the hymn says, And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can’t take it in, That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.
“He was wounded for our transgressions,” the prophet declares. ‘There we five kinds of wounds we can suffer. There is a contused wound, one that from a blow delivered by a blunt instrument. The Lord suffered that kind of a wound when they blindfolded Him, and some brute of a man drew back his fist and punched Him with all his force in the face.
There is a laceration, the kind of wound produced by a tearing instrument. The Lord suffered terrible lacerations when He was scourged. A Roman scourge was a fearful thing. The victim was bound to a post and beaten with a whip of numerous cords in which were embedded bits of iron or bone. The flesh was torn off the back and the organs exposed. It was not uncommon for a man to die under a scourging,
Then, too, there is a penetrating wound, a wound produced by a sharppointed instrument. The Lord suffered this kind of wound when He was crowned with thorns. The Jerusalem thorn has spikes four inches long. The mocking crown was pressed down upon His head producing a ring of wounds around His brow, deepened by subsequent blows to His head.
There is also a perforating wound, the kind of wound caused when the instrument pierces right through. The Lord suffered this wound when they pierced His hands and His feet.
Finally, there is an incision resulting from a cut produced by a sharpedged instrument such as a knife or a sword. The last indignity done to the Lord’s body was done with a Roman spear. That great gash in His side showed Him to be dead. So we sing:
Wounded for me, wounded for me,
There on the cross He was wounded for me:
Gone my transgressions, and now I am free,
All because Jesus was wounded for me.
When we sing that, we picture Him receiving all the wounds we can experience. Moreover, He carries the scars of those wounds to this very day, up there in glory, to the wonder of the redeemed and all the hosts of heaven.

November 9, 2020

The Lord and His Boyhood
Isaiah 53:2
There never was a boy like Jesus. Isaiah tells us two things about the boyhood of our Lord. First, He tells us how holy He was, says, “He shall grow up before him as a tender plant”—that has to do with His nature. “And as a root out of a dry ground” has to do with his nurture. Both set Him apart from all other boys.
A tender plant! Over the years, I have preached at Park of the Palms, a retirement center in Florida. At one time, the grounds were kept beautiful by a retired professional gardener. Only once did I hear him address an audience. this is what he said: On a stormy night in winter, I like to pull up my chair to the fire and set out my seed catalogues and plan my garden for the coming year. All plants featured in a seed catalog are described in one of three ways. They are either hardy, half-hardy, or tender, There are some very real differences, I can assure you, between these various categories.
A hardy plant is one native to the area. It will take ready root because it feels at home. The soil, the climate, the weather are all congenial. A half-hardy plant is one that is not a native to the area but it comes from a similar environment. The conditions are much the same, so it quickly settles in as a native. But a tender plant—well, that’s a different story. It is an exotic plant. It comes from far away. It does not find the soil or the climate congenial. It will need special attention. It will have to be protected from the weather. It will have to be fed special nutrients. It is a tender plant.
Our Lord Jesus was in this sin-cursed world as a tender plant. He came from far away. His nature was not like our nature. This world’s sin-ridden social, secular, and spiritual climate was foreign to Him. He was holy and harmless and undefiled and separate from sinners. He was a transplant from glory. He came out of eternity into time. As a man He was absolutely innocent; as God, He was absolutely holy. He was holy even as a boy. He was good, as God is good. He had no sin nature. “Satan cometh.” He said, toward the end of His life. “Satan cometh and hath nothing in me.” He was a tender plant from smother land, a land beyond the sky. He was a transplant from Glory. This sin-cursed world of ours was not His real home.
The prophet goes on to describe His nurture, by the time Jesus came to earth, the major pagan world religions had long since been founded and given a chance to show ‘what mere religion can do. The Lord found nothing in them. The great philosophers of Greece had come and gone and been given their chance to deal with the human condition. The Lord found nothing to nurture Him in them. Judaism had abandoned the Torah for the budding Talmud—the Mishnah and the Midrash had already taken deep root. There was nothing to nurture Him there.  Just the opinions and traditions of men. So he drove His roots deep into the Word of God. He was a root, indeed, out of a dry ground. He became the blessed man of Psalm 1 the tree planted by the rivers of water by the Spirit of God Himself. Isaiah tells us, moreover, a human He was. He was God incarnate, burning with holiness but all His essential, innate story was so veiled by His humanity that the prophet could add: hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that ‘we should desire him.” All people saw was “the carpenters son.” They saw a man in a homespun robe, speaking the local dialect and they dismissed Him as a Galilean peasant. They saw no beauty in Him at all. Indeed, the people of His native village tried to kill  for telling them the truth, but God’s eye was on Him. The ange!s were watching over Him. He was God’s “tender plant,” a transplant from world, cultivated and protected by God while living in a hostile world.

November 6, 2020

Unto Us A Child is Born
Isaiah 9:6
A Child is born says Isaiah A Son is Given. Matthew and Like tell us of the Child that was born; John tells of the Son that was given. The child born! That points us to the Son of Man. The Son given! That points us to the Son of God. The child born was the Babe of Bethlehem; the Son given was “the Lord from heaven.” The Child born reminds us that He was truly man, and the Son given tells us He was God. The Child born! That marks a beginning in time. The Son given is the Ancient of Days, from everlasting to everlasting, Jesus was both the Child born and the Son given.
The prophet gives us a fourfold description of this glorious one born of the Virgin Mary and conceived by the Holy Spirit. He is “the wonderful counselor.” That is, there is no problem He cannot solve. There are thousands of psychiatrists in the United States Alone.  People go to them to pour out their anger, frustration, bitterness, hatred, fear, envy, and guilt—and the problems in our society multiply and grow more and more horrendous all the time. Obviously psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and trained counselors do not have any real answers to the problems of people in general and socicty at large. But Jesus does! There is no problem He cannot solve. No one ever appealed to Him in vain, No one ever found Him at a loss, For in Him “are hid all the treasures of wisdom’ (Col. 2:3).
Then, too, He is “the mighty God.” There is no power He cannot subdue. He is the “Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.” He who can fling a hundred billion galaxies into space, or populate a drop of  ditch water with countless microscopic organisms, or pack enough power into an atom to incinerate a city can surely put down at will any power on earth or in heaven or in hell.
Moreover, there is no period He does not span, He is “the Father of Eternity.” We go back, ever further back in time, and always He is there. Back we go to the creation and even back beyond that. And there He is about to launch countless stars and their satellites into vast orbits, at conceivable velocities, to travel with mathematical precision on predictable paths! Always He is there—inescapable, gathering all time into the eternal present tense.
And, too, there is no person He cannot save. For the one who sits astride the centuries, who walks amid the galaxies, who has all wisdom, and who dwells amid great certainties has nail prints in His hands. He Is mighty to save: “Whosoever will may come, He says.  That Child born, that Son given, is our Savior and our Lord. And, blessed be God our God, He is our peace.

November 5, 2020

Psalm 102; Proverbs 18:24, Matthew 27:46, Mark 1:13, John 7:53, 8:1 
Samuel Taylor Coleridge is famous for having written a picturesque poem about an ancient mariner who set sail for a distant shore. An albatross followed the ship, mile after endless mile. The mariner shot it. At once the helpful wind died away, and the ship became becalmed. The sailors put two and two together. The albatross had brought the wind. Their messmate had killed the albatross. The wind had died with the bird.
In time the sailors began to die of thirst, and they died cursing the ancient mariner. At last he alone was left. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to talk to. He was alone with his remorse. As he told the wedding guest he had waylaid, he was
Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.
Loneliness is indeed a visitor to be feared. And often, once it comes, it stays. There is the loneliness of a young man, far from home and friends, wandering the shops and malls of a foreign city, surrounded by people but never a one to be his friend. There is the loneliness of a childless widow wandering the rooms of a home that has now become a house filed with dead furniture, haunting memories, and crucified hopes. 
The psalmist had tasted loneliness. He describes himself as being a lost “pelican of the wilderness.” A pelican belongs on a seashore, not in the wild wastes of the wilderness.  He was like a lost owl, “like an owl of the desert,” he says. An owl belongs where there are forests and fields. He was like a lost sparrow, “a sparrow alone upon the house top.” A sparrow belongs in the noisy, busy fellowship of its kind (Ps. 102:6—7).
Jesus knew what it was like to be lonely, It came over Him overwhelmingly at times. In a graphic statement, unfortunately spoiled by a chapter division, we read: “Every man went unto his own house.” Jesus went to the Mount of Olives (John 7:53; 8:1). Foxes had their holes, and the birds of the air had their nests; but Jesus had nowhere to lay His head.
And who among us has ever fathomed the depths of His dreadful cry on the cross “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mate, 27:46). That was the end of his ministry. It had its echo in the dark days of His temptation at the beginning of His ministry. Mark tells us that Jesus “was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts” (Mark 1:13). Perhaps Satan sent them, as the Romans sent starving beasts into the arena to devour the Christians.
If Satan imagined Jesus would be attacked by wild beasts, he was very much mistaken. They would be tame as lambs to Him and companions for awhile in His loneliness. Then, they, too, went away and the angels by that time, the Lord was at the end of His strength, starving from a forty-day fast, exhausted from a titanic battle with the Evil One. The beasts! The angels! Where was Peter? Where was John? Where were the Twelve? He was alone!
So now, as our Great High Priest in heaven, He has a personal know!edge of what it is like to be lonely! And He does something about it. On the level of His humanity. He shows us ways out of our loneliness. He who would have friends must show himself friendly, He says (Prov, 18:24). There are millions of lonely and needy people. We can seek out some of them to befriend. And on the level of His deity, He add: “And there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Yes, indeed! What friend we have in Jesus all our griefs and pains to bear. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is our faithful, unchangeable Friend.