Saturday, December 31, 2016

Change the World? First, Change Your Clothes

In our pursuit of Yeshua in the Old Testament, we have three verses in Isaiah that speak to this upcoming new year with the idea of salvation.  I am writing this on the 31st of December, and the words ring out with as much hope now as they did for His people then.

First, Isaiah 61:10:

          I will rejoice greatly in the Lord,
          My soul will exult in my God;
          For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, (yeshua)
          He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
          As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
          And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Beautiful and powerful.  No one would agree that the world today is in a lovely place.  In fact, it is very far from it.  Regardless of our recent presidential election's result, the world is still in chaos. The wolves are circling and closing in closer and closer to our front door.

Not too dissimilar to Isaiah's time.  Isaiah was speaking to Judah and Jerusalem, who were steeped in sin.  He foretold of God's desire for repentance and if His people choose to continue without doing so, judgement would fall hard and fast.  Isaiah (whose own name means "God is salvation") also speaks of a future time with kingdom ruled by the Messiah, the Deliverer.

So, these words are powerful in our time, as well as in Isaiah's. We must be covered in His garments. The kind of covering we make--religion, trying to be good enough, following rules--is ultimately inadequate. Adam and Eve could no more cover their sin with a few fig leaves sewn together than we can cover our sins with what we do:  "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."(Is. 64:6)

So, in order to change the world, we need a change of clothes. And not designer (of our own making) clothes, but ones bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus:  "God paid a high price for you, so don't be enslaved by the world." (1 Cor. 7:23) and "knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ." (1 Pet. 1:18-19)

If we are wrapped in His garments, what will people see?  Him in you. "Where ya get those threads?" is an opening to declare the greatness of Him working in you.  People who know us and our story of His work in us will be amazed and know that it could not have been by us alone that we have prevailed.

If we are wearing His garments, it's for a wedding. Weddings are public events: we are to go out and be His light to a world steeped in darkness: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 5:14-15)

We are so dressed to declare His glory, not to earn His love and approval. Jesus accomplished that for us: "In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us." (Eph. 1:4-8).   

Now, we have a mission in our new "uniform." Isaiah 62:1 declares, "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation (yeshua) like a blazing torch." If we are arrayed in a wedding clothes, how can we remain silent? We are excited about our Bridegroom, and we want to share that we can be rescued from sin and death through Him! Jesus declared Himself: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) 

Light should not be hidden for darkness then claims the victory. Isaiah 62:11 then calls out this hope: "The LORD has sent this message to every land: 'Tell the people of Israel, 'Look, your Savior is coming. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.'" 

Hope is here, now, even in the darkest times.  Why?  Because hope is not just a good intention or warm feeling floating out there.  Hope is a Person:  Yeshua, Jesus, our Bridegroom.  He clothes us now to bring His message to the world and He will return to restore this planet.

He truly makes the new year new.

















Monday, December 26, 2016

Who Would You Have Been? An After Christmas DayThought

I sincerely hope your Christmas was merry and bright.

The day here in Idaho arrived sunny and cold.  The snow drifts outside our house are two feet high and look like frozen tsunamis about to hit our house.

I have been thinking a lot about those who journeyed two thousand years ago to what we now call "Christmas Day." Who would I have been?  A curious shepherd?  An earnest king?  A conniving tyrant?  Who do I relate the most to?  A busy innkeeper?  A young woman?  A bewildered husband?

Let's walk to the manger.  Those people are still with us, for in them, we see ourselves and our world.

Mary:  Big news is only scary if you forget how big our God truly is.  But if you know Him, and know that the wind and waves still obey Him, seas still part and bread from heaven still falls, then the news is simply an invitation to walk more deeply in Him.

Joseph:  We don't always understand one another.  We guess at others' motivations and secrets and this unknowing is disturbing.  Solution?  Listen to God.  Seek to know His heart, His ways and His guidance.  Then, what others is doing is less our focus; we pray and focus on more of what we should be doing.  "Doing"is just another word for obedience.  God loves a willing heart.  Will we ever understand?  Maybe, maybe not, but serving Him as He calls us should be our heart's desire.

The Shepherds:  Are we willing to leave our livelihood and go seek out breathtaking news?  Are we willing to trust God to watch over what we are doing, so we may go and seek out what He has called us to go and see?  It's easy to believe in God sitting on a hillside, with our world contently munching the green grass all around us.  It is quite another to leave what we know, and to seek out what we don't.  It takes courage and curiosity.  It takes faith to trust to leave what we know and seek something bigger.  God cannot be contained.  So neither should our faith.

The Innkeeper:  Are we so busy that an obvious need is quickly dismissed?  Yet, our God is a Champion of the second chance, the second glance.  The innkeeper did both and so honored God by his reconsideration of the couple standing before him.  Our first reaction to a need does not have to be the last reaction.  We, too, can look again and respond with love this time.  God has made a way; let's partner with Him and be part of it.

The Wise Men:  "Seek and ye shall find."  Sometimes that means searching with all your heart for truth, unafraid of where it may lead.  Are we willing to search His Word with great diligence, and then act on what we now know?  Do we then bow on bended knee in humble reverence when we find His truth?  For truth is not an abstraction, but a Person.  He says that He is the "Way, the Truth, the Life."  The gifts we lay before Him are our heart, our soul, and our mind.  Valuable beyond measure, He can build a kingdom with such gifts.

The Tyrant:  Do we seek Jesus with smiles, while in our hearts we long to eliminate Him from our lives?  Do we act like we care to serve Him, while the king of self cries for our sole allegiance?  Do we ask lots of questions, appearing to be a sincere seeker of the truth, while we plot to overthrow the truth with our own version, one that, of course, makes us the king of our world?  Do others sense our lack of sincerity, (despite our best efforts to look otherwise) and they slip away from us, leaving us surrounded by those who think and act just like we do?

The Baby:  Is love such a powerful force in us that we are willing to leave the courts of heaven to enter the halls of hell?  Are we willing to serve God with such devotion, that even when it scares us, we say, "God, Thy will be done."?  Do we allow our God to so powerfully dwell in us, that when others are around us, they sense Him in what we say and do?

The Manger:  We are wood.  We are filled with hay.  We are dirty and unkempt.  But, will we allow this beautiful Baby to fill us?  Do we hold Him with such love and reverence that we are lit up with His light?  Whatever He touches becomes beautiful.  His life in us is beautiful.  He takes mangers and makes them into thrones.  Are we willing to allow Him to transform us into His dwelling place?

Let us pray for this new year.  Change is in the air, just as it was 2000 years ago.  Let us walk in the light of His love, and let that love drive out all fear.

God bless you!











Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Visitor from Another World: A Christmas Thought

If you were to beam down on this planet this holiday season, what would you see?  Huge crowds of people gathered in large areas, running to and fro.  Everywhere are multi-colored lights, lavish displays of goods in windows, and large groups of people moving quickly from one busy area to another, all acting as if they were in an urgent pursuit of something...

Beautiful decorated trees would catch your eye, standing as sentinels and calling to the crowds to come and gather.  Follow the crowds back to their homes, and still the lights and decorations would continue to dazzle you.  Then leave the lighted trees and lawn displays and travel some distance away.

There, the crowds would be of a different nature, huddled together, seeking warmth and shelter.  The contrast would be overwhelming from your earlier encounter with the planet.  No colorful lights; just angry blasts of light that leave destruction in their wake.  Crying children, blood and rubble fill the streets.  People flee in an urgent pursuit of something...

Now, travel back in time.  Way back.  To a distant land.  Upon a hill stands a magnificent temple, lit up in the cool of the evening with torches.  Gray curling smoke rises, along with chanting, into the dark desert skies.

Now, wander away to a little town.  Poor, quiet and empty.  The only light is from small lamps, aglow near small windows.  You gaze into the night sky, and a star captures you with its presence. It shines not over the distant temple, but over this small town, over a small stable.  You hear the quiet cry of a baby...

You wonder... Are all those beautiful lights, crying children and this star over a small stable somehow connected?

Listen.  A distant voice is calling: "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.  But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.  For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things. No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity.  They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil...Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood.  They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways.  The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths.  They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peace." (Is. 59:1-4; 7-8)

It strikes you.  This is what you are witnessing.  People running to and fro, lost in the empty pursuit of what they hope will distract them from their sinful hearts.  They lie to to one another and have forgotten that character and integrity matter.  Even in the countries ablaze with the colored lights, children cry and die. Violence is everywhere; it's just more obvious in those countries where the only lights are exploding bombs. 

Peace is elusive.  Everywhere.  

Then the voice continues: "So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us.  We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.  Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes.  At midday we stumble as if it were twilight;
among the strong, we are like the dead." (Is. 59:9-10)

The crying of the voice grows louder: "For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, inciting revolt and oppression, uttering lies our hearts have conceived. So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey."  (Is. 59:12-15)

You hang your head.  The whole of humanity has raised its voice in one great lamentation.  Despite the noise, the lights and the tears, people seem to know something has gone terribly wrong.  Their actions have brought devastating results.  

You stand in silence.  The cry from human hearts is unbearable.  

Then you hear a Voice rising above the cry: "The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation (yasha) for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.  He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation (yeshua) on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak." (Is. 59:15-17)

Then this voice shouts an acclamation that drowns out, for a moment, the wailing from all over this planet: “'The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,' declares the Lord." (Is. 59:20)

You ponder:  Yasha means to deliver and yeshua means salvation. 

Then it hits you.  You heard the name of that baby lying in that manger, under that star...it was Yeshua.

You are not the only visitor from another world.

You board your ship with hope in your heart that this planet can be redeemed.  You wonder as you speed off into black space, looking one last time at that blue dot:  Do the people hear that same Voice?  Do they realize the Hope that awaits them?
















Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Yeshua in Isaiah: Journeying On

Thank you, readers, for hanging in there with this journey to find Jesus, through His Hebrew name, Yeshua, in the Old Testament.

We have some more verses before we leave Isaiah. These verses recount the sins and hopelessness of the people and how God, once His judgment has been satisfied, longs to bring His people back. Our God is One who seeks relationship regardless of what we have done.

Let's look at Isaiah 52:10:  "The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation (yeshua) of our God."  

I see Christ on the cross, baring His arms, bearing our sin, in front of all the people who came down that road that day, and for all time.  Did the people realize what they were gazing upon?  Would have we had we been travelling the road that day?  

Would we have even noticed the wee Baby in the manger that night or even cared?  God opens up His salvation plan for all to read, for all to see, and yet we carry on, as if nothing has really changed.  But that Baby changed everything.

Here are the lyrics from a John Elefante song (yup, we're talking the 80's) but the message is as powerful now as it was then:  

Just another early morning as the sun begins to rise,
Like a million other mornings just the same.
The people of the town begin their ordinary lives,
Unsuspecting of a world about to change.
This was not just any other day...no, not just any other day.
Little did they know that on the other side of town,
The sin of all humanity would bleed beneath a crown,
Of a man whose only blame was being born a king...

And I wish that I could have felt the rain on me,
I wish that I could have felt that rain!
I would have looked into Your dying eyes
and stared at You in disbelief and thought,
"Is this what you've been telling me, 2000 years!"

It was business as usual, nothing different at all,
As dusk would cast a shadow and the night began to fall,
But no one stopped to notice that before this day would end,
The sick and the afflicted needn't ever hurt again.
Not just any other day...It was not just any other day.
As a small crowd gathered just beneath the dying Son,
The fulfillment of a promise had been done!

And I wish that I could have felt that rain on me,
I wish that I could have felt that rain!
I would have heard with my own ears, as You shouted out in fear and said,
"Father, why have You forsaken Me?"
Not just any other day...

That Baby grew up and carried a burden heavier than any wooden cross: the sins of all of us.  

God's redemption is hiding in plain sight.  As He says in Isaiah 56:1, "Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation (yeshua) is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed."  

He revealed His plan throughout the Old Testament.  His Son's name echoed like a soft melody, calling us back to Him.  What sin had destroyed, His Son would redeem.  Christmas Day and Easter morning...two days that forever changed the world.

How can I say this with such blessed assurance?  Because they changed me.



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Yeshua in Isaiah: Glory to God!

We are continuing our study to see if Jesus ("Yeshua") is in the Old Testament, and lo and behold, He is there, whenever the word for salvation ("yeshua") is used. We are exploring Isaiah.

I read something recently that stopped me in my tracks. Isaiah's own name is replete with meaning that coincides with Jesus' name and His mission.  

From this website on Biblical names, www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Isaiah, look at what Isaiah's name means...  (My comments are in parentheses. I can't help it.)

     The name Isaiah(u) consists of two parts: The final part is יה or יהו, both abbreviated forms of יהוה; YHWH or Yahweh. (Only God alone can deliver us.)
     The first part of the name Isaiah comes from the root-verb ישע (yasha'), meaning to be saved or delivered:  (That is what we need:  deliverance from sin, ourselves and death.)
     The root-verb ישע (yasha'), probably originally meant something like to be wide or spacious (in Arabic it still does), and its counterpart is the verb צרר (sarar), meaning to be narrow, to bind or to be in distress. Our verb ישע (yasha') means exactly the opposite: to be wide, to be loose or delivered, and to be saved.  (I love how the word contains the idea "to be loose or delivered."  We are set free in Yeshua--our bonds are broken, our chains are unlocked.  We are unbound. Wow.)
     This root and its derivatives occur 353 times in the Old Testament. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes that deliverance indicates a movement from distress to safety, and generally must come from some somewhere outside the party oppressed. The one who brings this deliverance is known as the "savior," and this may be a human agent delivering from any kind of earthly oppression, to God and man's deliverance from evil. However, any human savior is regarded as empowered by YHWH, and so, all deliverance comes from YHWH; the God of our salvation and deliverance (Psalm 68:19-20).  (Wow...Isn't this amazing?)
     The derivatives of this verb are: The feminine noun ישועה (yeshua) meaning salvation (Genesis 49:18, 2 Samuel 10:11).
     For a meaning of the name Isaiah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Yahweh Is Salvation, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Salvation Of The Lord.
     A remarkable feature of the name Isaiah is that it consists of the same two elements as the name Joshua (יהושע). The name Joshua is the Hebrew form of the Greek name Jesus, and most probably the name by which Jesus the Nazarene was known by His contemporaries.

So, suddenly the passages in Luke where Jesus is in the synagogue and is handed the scroll of Isaiah, and He proceeds to read:  

     The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
     because he has anointed me
     to proclaim good news to the poor.
     He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
     and recovery of sight for the blind,
     to set the oppressed free,
     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  (61:1-2)

makes this moment in His ministry all the more powerful. The Savior is reading from the prophet whose own name echoes that salvation is of the Lord.

You could argue that if Jesus is in the Old Testament, you would expect a lot of verses to speak of Him in Isaiah, and this is true.  

Jesus quoted out of the three sections of the Hebrew Bible (which then represents the whole), the Torah, the Neviim ("Prophets") and the Ketuvim ("Writings").  So, let's see how often Jesus' name occurs in each of these divisions, which also then could be argued to cover the whole Old Testament as inclusive of Him:
  • Torah: 1 (Genesis); 1 (Exodus).  These two books cover the beginning of all mankind, our fall due to disobedience, and our need for atonement. Yeshua will be of the woman's seed and will crush the head of the serpent, who deceived Adam and Eve.  Exodus, while a huge event of liberation for His people in Jewish history, it is also a foreshadowing of the ultimate Deliverer leading His people out of bondage.  
  • Neviim: 2 (2 Samuel); 1 (2 Chronicles); 15 (Isaiah); 1 (Micah), 1 (Habakkuk); 1 Zechariah. Isaiah, whose own name means salvation, is abundant in Messianic references.  Isaiah also foretells the consequences of his people's sin--destruction and captivity--but also of their return and restoration.  No wonder Jesus read from this book when He began His ministry and that His name is abundantly used throughout it.
  • Ketuvim: 14 (Psalms)  No surprise here, either.  God made a covenant with David where He promised that his kingdom would never end. Jesus fulfilled this as King.   
So, as we approach Christmas, let's take a few more verses where Yeshua's name is mentioned in Isaiah:  

             How beautiful on the mountains
             are the feet of those who bring good news,
             who proclaim peace,
             who bring good tidings,
             who proclaim salvation, (yeshua)
             who say to Zion,
             “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

Look at these words and the words from Isaiah 61:1-2; they both carry the theme of restoration.  It is little wonder that Jesus spoke them in reference to himself.  

You also hear Isaiah in the song of the angels in Luke 2:10-14, joyously announcing the Messiah's birth.  I have italicized the overlap of the words:

And the angel (a messenger of good news) said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David (Zion) a Saviour, (salvation--yeshua) which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, ("your God reigns") and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Where was this song sung?  Over the mountains and fields of Bethlehem.

God's details about His Son in His Word take my breath away.  

Isaiah echoes in Jesus' life from the very beginning.  


























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