It Was Good For Me (or the day my stomach quit)

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Some History

I remember the first time I missed out on a family outing because of digestive problems. I was eleven. And I was so embarrassed.

Two years later I was in a doctor’s office in Oklahoma City because of stomach pains and indigestion. The cause was not pinpointed.

Three years after that, the culprit seemed to be greasy food. Almost every time I smelled it or ate it, another episode was triggered. Maybe it was my gallbladder.

At age 18, after losing 15 pounds my first semester in college, I eliminated dairy. My stomach episodes were halved with this elimination. I went to the doctor to get tested for lactose-intolerance. The test came back negative. I kept dairy out of my diet anyway.

Throughout college and grad school, the stomach episodes continued off and on. Sometimes I could eat whatever I wanted. Sometimes I could only have vegetables and water. Sometimes I could have white flour. Most times I couldn’t. My test for celiac disease came back negative. My doctor told me I had irritable bowel syndrome.

I often cried myself to sleep because of the stomach pain. Sometimes the pain was so intense, I couldn’t breathe. Sometimes the pain was worse than that.

This past September, one month into my fifth year of teaching, almost all food suddenly gave me heartburn and made me quite sick. Even a glass of water necessitated a prompt Zantac75. Every time I ate, it felt like I’d been punched in the abdomen.  The only foods that were safe were strawberries, blueberries, fish, almonds, and avocados. So that’s what I ate. After about a month, I added sweet potatoes and kale. I had no idea what was going on. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to what my stomach could handle. I lost 25 pounds.

I’ve been able to add a couple more foods – and water – but I’m still in the middle of this whatever-it-is. It’s not as serious as what other people suffer through, but I have learned through it. So here is my attempt to think through this new stage in life, and perhaps provide encouragement to someone who happens to read this…

Loss of control and the blame game

When something goes wrong, it is natural to look for the reason. If there is a strange smell in the refrigerator, we go looking for the culprit and throw it out. Sometimes pointing the blame helps relieve pent up feelings. When this last bout with my system started, I tried find the source of my problem. I went to my doctor. Numerous tests and one endoscopy came back with nothing. No food intolerances. No allergies. No inflammation in my stomach. No ulcers. No autoimmune disease. According to my lab work, I was fine.

I was angry and frustrated. I pointed the blame-finding questions towards myself. Is there something I could have done differently? Is this my fault? Why can’t I handle stress better? What am I supposed to learn? Why can’t I fix this? What am I doing wrong?

I had lost some control of my body. I felt that if I could find the source, then I could fix it.

There were a lot of ‘I’s in my plan for healing. Through the muddled worrying and thinking about what to do next, I felt a gentle prompting to let go of the ‘I’. Who is the Creator and Lord of every cell in your body? Who is your Health and Salvation? Can you walk through this without grasping for answers? Can you be content with my plan for sickness and healing that you cannot control?

Going to the doctor, reading articles, and undergoing tests were not wrong, but putting myself in control of my hurting and healing was prideful. Instead, how much better would it be to see my doctor and undergo tests while laying the burning, fault-finding questions at the feet of my Savior? How much better to seek answers with a gentle and quiet spirit instead of a feverish worry?

Fear

Fear is a quiet, subtle enemy that always seems just within arm’s reach, waiting for a chance to slip back in my heart. It’s had plenty of opportunities – through being unable to drink water for a week, through feeling weak and tired, through feeling constantly hungry, through discouraging results, through the sudden death of a childhood friend from unknown digestive problems.

At the same time, I learned that the Holy Spirit is even closer than fear and is ever-present to remind me…

Do not fear anything that is frightening. 1 Peter 3:6

My flesh and my heart may fail, but the LORD is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Ps. 73:26

And He remains to remind me every time fear starts to creep in. The unknown inside my body is not unknown to Him.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
In your book were written, every one of them,
The days that were formed for me,
When as yet there was none of them.
Ps. 139:16

Tested patience and thoughts of hope

I must admit, I really thought this new phase would last a couple months at the most. I get aggravated and complain. I’m impatient to stop bringing my own food to restaurants, bored with sweet potatoes and kale, and tired of fighting resentment. What is the point?

So I say, “my endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the LORD.”
Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
The wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
Lamentations 3:18-20

But who remembers my sorrows better than the Man of Sorrows who has numbered even the hairs on my head? Can I persevere in His Name and through His Strength?

But this I call to mind,
And therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
To the soul who seeks him.
Lamentations 3:21-25

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
And in his word I hope;

My soul waits for the Lord
More than watchmen for the morning,
More than watch men for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
And with him is plentiful redemption.
Psalm 130:5-7

It was (and is) good for me

At a purely physical level, yes, this about a digestive system gone awry and I want healing. I would like to be able to eat more foods again, or at least know why I can’t. But at the same time, this is not about my stomach as much as it is about the God who created it, and the love, hope, peace, and joy that He gives. And through it all He is patient to re-teach my heart these truths when the pain in my stomach makes me forget. He is all in all, and my relationship with Him is paramount to the health of my body.

You have put more joy in my heart
Than they have when their grain and wine abound.
Psalm 4:7

Your hands have made and fashioned me;
Give me understanding that I may learn your commandments…
I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous,
And that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
Let your steadfast love comfort me
according to your promise to your servant.
Psalm 119:73, 75-76

It is good for me that I was afflicted,
That I might learn your statutes.
Psalm 119:71

My Resurrection is Assured: Easter 2015

As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust… 1 Cor. 15:48a

I am but dust.  This morning, I had not been awake five minutes when that familiar burning pain began again somewhere in my stomach area. Almost in the middle, but slightly to the left. “Please, stop.  I’m so tired of this,” I muttered to the guilty internal organs as I laid back down to (hopefully) help it stop. The pain eventually subsided, but that didn’t keep me from getting sick with everything I ate.  When I finally made it to the afternoon, I was not enduring well.  Drained and starting to hurt again, I had sworn at least once that I was never eating food again.

I know I’m not alone in this. I don’t have to look far to find friends, family, and strangers that have worse physical pain and debilitating illnesses.  Cancer, Parkinson’s, Dementia, Krohn’s, Colitis, MS, Rheumatoid arthritis.  Some illnesses are visible; some invisible, hiding behind smiles and efforts to live normally.

In the midst of these struggles is the need for assurance and joy.  There are many recommendations for finding them:

That means you let go for just a minute of the idea that disease is bad. For that minute just see your disease as  neutral. It is not destroying you, it is not healing you, it is just a benign blob in the corner of the room. Now, I want you to look at the blob, and ask it very seriously what gifts it has for you. Ask it what gifts it plans to give you. It may be a staring contest, but smile and be patient while you hold your turf and see what it has to say. Why Autoimmune Disease is Joy in Disguise, aiplifestyle.com

Do this, the author continues, and you can begin to make peace with your disease and see the good that can come from it.

This seems like a good exercise, but then, I wonder, what if the “blob” doesn’t answer back?  What if the “blob” itself remains an unknown or becomes an unsolvable known? Where’s the hope in elimination diets and endless questions?

Enter the hope of Easter.

So it is with the resurrection of the dead.  What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.  It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.  It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.  It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.  Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.  But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the natural, and then the spiritual.  The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.  As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.  Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 1 Cor. 15: 42-49

God, who cannot die, took on human flesh, then came to earth and entered human time as fully God and fully man.  After a life-time of bearing human weakness, he died, bearing my sin and judgment.  But, then, still human, he rose again.  Because he physically rose, I will physically live again. What was weak will be made whole; what perished will become imperishable.  The Creator of my body is not indifferent to it.  He has promised to raise it.  His resurrection assures mine.

Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. The same man, Paul, who wrote this meditation on Christ’s resurrection also wrote about his “thorn” in his flesh, a thorn he pleaded for God to take away. God did not take it away, but showed Paul how to endure:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Cor. 12:9

Even with his weakness and in his human frailty, Paul ended his meditation on Christ’s resurrection with this call to hope:

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 15:58

So, while I wait the day when my Creator erases all trace of illness, pain, and fatigue from my body, I can rest in his Sovereign will that made Easter possible.  I can find joy in His mercy that brought me to true life in Him.  I can rest in the strength of the love my Savior’s prayers the night before he died.  I can ask the Giver of good and perfect gifts for the grace to see Him working all things for my good.  I can rest in the certainty that He is at work and will continue His work until it is complete.

The grave was not and will not be the end.  Jesus lives, and so shall I.

 

 

 

 

Promises and Fulfillment: The New Covenant

This is the final post in the series we covered in Bible Study last month.  After looking at the Old Testament, we spent a week looking at the New Testament and how it related with the Old Testament.  First, we looked at two passages predicting the coming of the New Covenant, particularly Jeremiah 31:31-34.  Next we looked at the idea that the New Testament is expected if we believe the Messiah has come.

New Covenant, New Testament:

Promised in the Old Testament…

Jeremiah 31:31-34

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD:  I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.  And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD.  For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Jeremiah 33:14-26

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ “For thus says the LORD: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.” The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Thus says the LORD: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the offspring of David my servant, and the Levitical priests who minister to me.” The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Have you not observed that these people are saying, ‘The LORD has rejected the two clans that he chose’? Thus they have despised my people so that they are no longer a nation in their sight. Thus says the LORD: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.”

… And fulfilled by Christ…

Luke 22:19-20

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

 

“… not like the covenant that I made with their fathers…”

Hebrews 8

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.  For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,

when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel

and with the house of Judah,

not like the covenant that I made with their fathers

on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.

For they did not continue in my covenant,

and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel

after those days, declares the Lord:

I will put my laws into their minds,

and write them on their hearts,

and I will be their God,

and they shall be my people.

And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor

and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’

for they shall all know me,

from the least of them to the greatest.

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,

and I will remember their sins no more.”

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

 

Hebrews 9

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

 

“I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts…”

John 6:13

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

1 Corinthians 2:12

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

 

“…And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me…”

John 10:14

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.”

1 John 2:12-14

I am writing to you, little children,

because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.

I am writing to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

I am writing to you, young men,

because you have overcome the evil one.

I write to you, children,

because you know the Father.

I write to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,

because you are strong,

and the word of God abides in you,

and you have overcome the evil one.

 

“…For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more…”

Hebrews 10:11-23

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them

after those days, declares the Lord:

I will put my laws on their hearts,

and write them on their minds,”

then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

The Full Assurance of Faith

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

 

“…Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar–the LORD of hosts is his name: “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” Thus says the LORD: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD.”

Hebrews 13:20

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant…

Ephesians 3:11-12

This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

 

  • The New Testament was expected if the Messiah came:

Hebrews 1:1-2

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

o   If God saw fit to provide His word as spoken to the prophets, how much more would He have the words of God the Son written?

John 14:24-26

“Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

o   And not only what Jesus said, but the apostles’ writings as well:

John 16:12-14

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Promises and Fulfillment: The Old Covenant part 2

After looking at prophecies about Jesus from Moses, we looked at some (but by no means even close to all) of the other prophecies in the Old Testament.

PROPHECIES FROM OTHERS:

  • Born in Bethlehem

o   (Micah 5:2)

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

o   (Luke 2:4-7)

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

  • Born of a virgin

o   (Isaiah 7:14)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

o   (Luke 1:26-33)

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

  • Lamentation of murdered infants

o   (Jeremiah 31:15)

Thus says the LORD: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”

o   (Matthew 2:16-18)

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

  • Called out of Egypt

o   (Hosea 11:1)

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

o   (Matthew 2:13-15)

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

  • A Messenger will Prepare the Way

o   (Isaiah 40:3-5)

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

o   (Malachi 3:1)

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

o   (Luke 3:2-6; 7:24-27)

…during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” … When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’

  • Teaching in Galilee

o   (Isaiah 9:1-2)

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.

o   (Matthew 4:12-16)

Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

  • The Power to heal

o   (Isaiah 61:1-3)

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion–to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

o   (Luke 4:17-21)

And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

  • He was Despised

o   (Isaiah 53:3-4)

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

o   (John 1:11, 12:37)

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him… Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

  • He was Hated without Reason

o   (Psalm 35:19)

Let not those rejoice over me who are wrongfully my foes, and let not those wink the eye who hate me without cause.

o   (John 15:24-25)

If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

  • Cut Off

o   (Isaiah 53:8)

By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?

o   (John 11:49-52)

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

  • Betrayed by a friend

o   (Psalm 41:9)

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

o   (Mark 14:10)

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.

o   (Luke 22:21, 47-48)

But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. …While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”

  • Price Paid for Betrayal

o   (Zechariah 11:12)

Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver.

o   (Matthew 26:14-15)

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.

  • Money

o   (Zechariah 11:13)

Then the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”–the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD, to the potter.

o    (Matthew 27:3-7)

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers.

  • Pierced

o   (Psalm 22:15-16)

… my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet

o   (Zechariah 12:10)

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

o   (John 19:33-35; 20:25-27)

But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness–his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth–that you also may believe. … So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

  • Risen

o   (Psalm 16: 10-11)

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

o   (Mark 16:5-6)

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.

Promises and Fulfillment: The Old Covenant part 1

Even though the whole Old Testament — Old Covenant — points to the coming of Christ as the Redeemer, we looked mostly at the promises concerning the Messiah as a brief overview of the Old Testament.  The inspiring verse for this study was

John 5:46

“… For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.”

So, we started with some of the things Moses had to say about the coming of the Messiah (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy).

PROPHECIES FULFILLED BY JESUS (partial list)

FROM MOSES:

  • From the offspring of Eve
  • (Gen. 3:14-15) – The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

o   (Galatians 4:4) – But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law…

o   (Matthew 1:17) – So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

  • From Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:
  • (Genesis 12:1-3) Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
  • (Genesis 17:17-19) Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.
  • (Numbers 24:17) I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.

o   (Matthew 1:1-17) So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations. 1:17

o   (Luke 3: 34-38) … the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor… the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

  • From Judah
  • (Gen. 49:10) – The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

o   (Luke 3:23-33) Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli … the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah…

  • Serpent would strike his heel
  • (Genesis 3:15) – I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

o   (John 12:31-33) — Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

o   (John 19:18) — There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

  • No Bones Broken
  • (Exodus 12:43-46) And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. No foreigner or hired servant may eat of it. It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones.
  • (Psalms 34:19-20) Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

o   (John 19:33-37) — But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness–his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth–that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

  • Passover Lamb
  • (Exodus 12:3-6) Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.
  • (Isaiah 53:7) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

o   (John 1:29) – The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

o   (1 Cor. 5:7) – Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

o   (1 Peter 1:17-19) – And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

  • Prophet Raised Up Like Moses
  • (Deuteronomy 18:15) – “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers–it is to him you shall listen—“

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN JESUS AND MOSES

(Acts 3:22): Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.”

  • Both were prophets, priests, and kings

o   King:

  • (Ex. 18:13) The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening.
  • (Matt. 28:18) And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

o   Priest:

  • (Ex. 40:29) And he set the altar of burnt offering at the entrance of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered on it the burnt offering and the grain offering, as the LORD had commanded Moses.
  • (Heb. 7:17-22) For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.'” This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

o   Prophet:

  • (Exodus 9:13) The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel…”
  • (John 7:16) So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”
  • (Matt. 13:57) And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”
  • Both were endangered in infancy

o   (Ex. 1:22; 2:2) Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live…The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months.”

o   (Matt. 2:16) Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men…

  • Both voluntarily renounced power and wealth

o   (Hebrews 11:24-26) By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

o   (Philipians 2:5-7) Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

  • Both were deliverers, lawgivers, and mediators

o   (Psalm 106:23) Therefore he said he would destroy them–had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

o   (Matt. 1:21) She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

o   (1 Tim. 2:5) For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…

o   (Matt. 5) And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying… (5:2)

  • Both were rejected by their kinsmen

o   (Ex. 15:24) And the people grumbled against Moses…

o   (Acts 7:35) “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’–this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.”

o   (Mark 8:31) And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

  • Both performed signs to show that their message of deliverance was from God

o   (Ex. 4:9) If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

o   (John 10:38) but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

  • Moses raised up the serpent and Christ was raised

o   (John 3:14-15) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Promises and Fulfillment: Overview of the Bible

In Bible study the last couple of weeks, we have been looking at the Old Testament and New Testament and the main storyline they both tell in an effort to understand a little better what the Bible is.  Even though I’ve read through the Bible before, it has been wonderful to read again the promises — and to feel the anticipation — and then to read of the fulfillment.  The next two posts will be about the  Old Testament and New Testament passages of promise and fulfillment.  It’s been breath-taking to me to read them and, in them, to renew my sense of the Father’s love.

Here is Love…

I was browsing through the Christmas ornaments at Hobby Lobby earlier this month when I saw an ornament that struck my eye.  Even though it wasn’t a figurine from the manger scene, the cross-shape wasn’t too out of place.  There were several other cross-themed ornaments.  No, it was the message on the ornament that caught my eye: He Is Risen.  It took a minute for me to process, but it makes perfect sense.  The only reason that we celebrate Christmas with such joy and hope is because Christ was born… and thirty-three years later he died for our redemption… and rose again.

As promised, so Christ came.  Simeon knew this when he saw the eight-day old baby Jesus:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devote, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Matthew 2:25-32)

This was anticipation at it’s finest.  So what joy must Simeon have felt when he held the One bringing salvation!

Also in the temple that day was Anna, an 84-year-old prophetess who lost her husband after seven years of marriage.

And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Matthew 2:38)

They were waiting for the greatest love of all — a love that resounded through the prophets, and their own people’s history.  A promised Savior who would show a blind world the grace of a forgiving Father, perfect love in reconciliation, and the truth that sets free.  It is a love that we can trace from the beginning of the world.

Here is love…

…in Genesis, when God promises that the Devil would be crushed by a descendant from Eve (Gen. 3:15) so that sin would be only a temporary power in the world.

…in God’s covenant with  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that God will call a people to Himself (Gen. 12:1-3).

… in the books of the Law, in which we see that the price for atonement for sin is in the life and the blood (Lev. 17:11).  The animals, which bear the iniquity and penalty for human sin (Lev. 16:21-22) are signs that the coming perfect Savior will bear what a sinful people themselves deserve.

… in the books of the prophets when more signs are given so that people could recognize the Savior when he come.

… in the Old Testament stories where the faithful God pursues a faithless people.

… in Old Testament history where the righteous God judges sin to bring repentance, but does not utterly destroy his people.

… in more Old Testament stories where God preserves his chosen people from their earthly enemies… because of His promise: from them a Savior will come.

… in the first 17 verses of Matthew, after hundreds of years of silence, we read that God has kept his promise and the Savior is born.

Here is love…

… that at the right time, God came as a newborn baby boy…

“as he spoke by the mouth of the holy prophets of old.  That we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his covenant.” (Luke 1:70-72).

… who grew into a man and performed miracles to show his power over sickness, death, and sin…

“But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he said to the paralytic–“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” Mark 2:10-11

… and so that we might believe that he really was God Incarnate.

“If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37-38)

Here is love…

… that Jesus died…

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

… the innocent for the guilty…

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:11,18)

… so that we might be free from eternal condemnation…

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh… (Romans 8:1,3)

… so that we might know the love of God.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9)

Here is love…

… He is risen.

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15: 21-22)

So, this Christmas, may we marvel and rejoice as Simeon and Anna did.  May every figurine of baby Jesus in a manger remind us that here is love.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)