At the end of my Christmas post yesterday, the passage I posted from John’s Gospel ended with these words.
He [the Word—Jesus] has explained Him[God]. - John 1:18 NASB
You see. The outcome of the Word coming in flesh is that we can know and understand God.
OK - I can hear it now—God is so far beyond our understanding, we could never understand Him.
There is an expression of God that can be comprehended to a certain extent.
It’s God in the flesh. He didn’t just put on a man suit like some alien from Men In Black. He became a man with all that means, the frailty, the weakness, even the ability to be tempted. God took on those inherent desires I spoke about Saturday. He managed His God-given desires in a way that brought honor and pleasure to the Father.
So when we take a step back and look at Jesus we begin to understand the Father. The explanation of what God is like begins to form. The realization of what God is not like also takes form.
As we gaze on this God-man we see the character of God, the goodness of God, the compassion of God, the heart of God. We see what angers Him and what moves His hand to bless and heal.
We see God, and it's much clearer than looking at the history of a nation that walked in the wilderness four thousand years ago.
Jesus is the explanation of God written in terms we can begin to understand.
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through Him,
and apart from Him nothing came into being
that has come into being.
In Him was life,
and the life was the Light of men.
The Light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not comprehend it.
There was the true Light
which, coming into the world,
enlightens every man.
He was in the world,
and the world was made through Him,
and the world did not know Him.
He came to His own,
and those who were His own did not receive Him.
BORN OF GOD
Butas many as received Him,
to them He gave the right
to become children of God,
even to those who believe in His name,
who were born,
not of blood
nor of the will of the flesh
nor of the will of man,
but of God.
GLORY, GRACE, AND TRUTH
And the Word became flesh,
and dwelt among us,
and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father,
For of His fullness we have all received,
and grace upon grace.
For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
No one has seen God at any time;
the only begotten God
who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
In Isaiah 6, the prophet tells of His day in the throne room of the Most High God. He gives us a description of his fearful and wonderful surroundings. He saw the Lord seated on this throne. He saw the Seraphim calling out with voices that shook the temple, “Holy, holy, holy.”
At first, all he can hear is the warnings of the Seraphim, Then the realization of the Lord's intense holiness breaks through to his spirit and he sees himself as God sees him.
Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." - Isaiah 6:5 NASB
Immediately upon his repentance his ability to hear the voice of the Lord opened up. And repentance it was. One glimpse of the Lord’s holiness cut him to the core and he had to be rid of it. It reminds me of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. Under the anointed preaching of Peter, the veil was lifted for three thousand souls. They saw the Lord through the preaching of Peter and repented, turning to Jesus for salvation.
Once Isaiah could hear what’s going on he picks up on a conversation.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" - Isaiah 6:8 NASB
It strikes me that this is not a one-time conversation in the halls of heaven. I believe, not unlike the Seraphim crying out, “Holy,” day and night, the call for workers in the field is continually going out.
“Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”
I’ve heard that call. Have you?
But someone else heard that call. Jesus, in that throne room, hears the unrelenting call of the Father, “who will go for Us.”
Sometimes I wonder if those of use who hear this age-old call to the lost, aren’t hearing an echo of the call that put Jesus in a manger two thousand years ago. Was Isaiah simply reiterating Jesus’ own answer to that call?
“Here am I, Father, send me.”
Jesus answered His Father's call to rescue his sons and daughters.
Jesus answered His Father's callto set aside His splendor and put on swaddling clothes.
Jesus answered His Father's callto face temptation like a man.
Jesus answered His Father's callto torture and death at the hands of the ones he came to save.
What a wonderful Savior we have in Jesus Christ the Lord.
Glory to God in the Highest.
I'm so glad, as we celebrate the incarnation, we are still able to give Him glory with our praise, our love, and our obedience. Aren't you?
Another striking passage from Handel's Messiah is this bit from Job.
"As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. "Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; - Job 19:25-26 NASB
Job's book is thought to be the first scripture committed to writing, written even before Moses put down the Pentateuch. Job had lived through as much sorrow and hardship as any man before or since.
In the end of his narrative, after all his friends have abused him and put him to shame, he makes this declaration. I know that my redeemer lives and that I will see Him.
It reminds me of David's understanding of death. When his infant son died, the product of his affair with Bathsheba, he ends his mourning, gets dress and returns to life. His time of morning was over, and his declarations was,
"But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me." - 2 Samuel 12:23 NASB
These men both had a concept of a time after life when they would see their redeemer and their loved ones. They were ultimately headed to Him.
Job even understood the resurrection of the body. After my skin is gone, in my flesh I will see God.
Eternity was in their hearts, and they knew that this life of hardship and trial, is not all there was. There is more.
There is more.
This is on my mind, in part, because, this year, our Christmas celebration has two loved ones less around the table. Two dear saints have joined the cloud of witnesses and celebrate the incarnation from the other side of the veil. My mother and my father-in-law have been celebrating Jesus in person these past few months. What a glorious thought. They are not lost to me, to us. They simply stepped out of this mortal mess into a glorious life of communion with God.
And one day, when Christ returns, they will be given new bodies, functioning, fully healed and whole bodies, and renewed minds, with which to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And on that day, if not before, I will go to them, as David put it. Moreover, I will go to Him - I will see my living Redeemer face to face. In my flesh, I will see God.
Oh, Hallelujah. What a day that will be.
Do you have that assurance? You can. On Christmas we celebrate God's greatest gift to us, His Son Jesus. Let this Christmas be the day you give your life to Jesus, once and for all. It's simple, a simple act of your will. Own your own failure and surrender to Him. He says—well—here–I'll let Him tell it,
Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. - John 14:23 NASB
This is Messiah week at Another Red Letter day, so for Worship Wednesday I thought you might enjoy this rendition of Handel's "For Unto Us A Child Is Born." This is performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Collin Davis conducting.
Note: The Lyrics come from Isaiah 9:6.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6 KJV
When I was younger my family went every year to hear the wonderful oratorio, Messiah, by George Friedrich Handel. The wonder, majesty, and power of this work bring me to tears every time I soak in it.
Much credit is due to the wonderful music, but at the heart of this work is the text which is directly from the God's Word. I wanted to share it with you. Why not make a reading—or better a listening with the lyrics handy—a part of your Christmas Season this year.
Messiah (HWV 56) is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer (which are worded slightly differently from their King James counterparts). It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742 and received its London premiere nearly a year later. After an initially modest public reception, the oratorio gained in popularity, eventually becoming one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music.[n 1] (Wikipedia)
To make it a little easier to follow I put the names of each piece in bold followed by the scripture reference which was supplied by the source listed below, followed by the text of the scripture printed out in the quotes boxes.
Handel's Messiah George Frederic Handel (1695-1759)
(2) Comfort Ye
1. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. . . .
3. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
(3) Every Valley
4.Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.
(4) And the Glory of the Lord
5. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together:for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
(5) Thus saith the Lord
6. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; Yet once, a little while and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; 7. And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come
1. The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in:Behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.
(6) But who may abide the Day of His Coming?
2. But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner's fire.
(7) And He shall Purify
3. And He shall purify the sons of Levi. . . that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
(8) Behold A Virgin Shall Conceive
Isaiah 7:14 (Matthew 1:23)
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name EMMANUEL, God with us.
(9) O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion
9. O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, and be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
1. Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
(10) For behold, darkness shall cover the earth
2. For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. 3. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
(11) The people that walked in darkness
Isaiah 9:2 (Matthew 3:16)
2. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
(12) For unto Us a Child is born
6. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
(13) Pastoral Symphony
(14) There were shepherds abiding in the field
8. There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.
9. And lo! the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
(15) And the Angel said unto them
10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
(16) And suddenly there was with the Angel
13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
(17) Glory to God
14. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
(18) Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion
Zechariah 9:9,10 (Matthew 21:5)
9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee. He is the righteous Savior. . 10. . . And he shall speak peace unto the heathen.
(19) Then shall the eyes of the blind
5. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.
(20) He shall feed his flock like a shepherd
11. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; and he shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
Matthew 11:28, 29
28. Come unto [Him], all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and [He shall]give you rest. 29. Take [his] yoke upon you, and learn of [Him]; for [he is] meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
(21) His yoke is easy
30. [His] yoke is easy, and [his]burden is light.
(22) Behold the lamb of God
29.Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.
(23) He was despised
3. He is despised and rejected of men: a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. . . Isaiah 50:6 [He]gave [His] back to the smiters, and [His] cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: [He] hid not [His] face from shame and spitting.
(24) Surely He hath borne our griefs
4. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. . . . 5. . . He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:the chastisement of our peace was upon him,
(25) And with His stripes we are healed
5. and with His stripes we are healed
(26) All we like sheep have gone astray
6. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(27) All they that see him laugh him to scorn
7. All they that see [him]laugh [him] to scorn: they shoot out their lips, they shake their heads, saying:
(28) He trusted in God
Psalm 22:8 (Matthew 27:43)
8. He trusted [in God] that he would deliver him:let him deliver him, if he delight in him.
(29) Thy rebuke hath broken His heart
20. [Thy] rebuke hath broken [his] heart; [He is] full of heaviness. [He]looked for some to have pity [on Him], but there was none; neither found [He] any to comfort [Him].
(30) Behold, and see if there be any sorrow
12. Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto [his] sorrow. . .
(31) He was cut off out of the land of the living
8. he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of [Thy] people was He stricken.
(32) But Thou didst not leave His soul in hell
Psalm 16:10 (Acts 2:27)
10. [But] thou [didst] not leave [his] soul in hell; neither [didst]thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption.
(33) Lift up your heads, O ye gates
7. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. 8. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. 9. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. 10. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.
(34) Unto which of the angels said He at any time
Hebrews 1:5 (Psalm 2:7)
5. For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?
(35) Let all the angels of God worship Him
6. "Let all the angels of God worship Him."
(36) Thou art gone up on high
Psalm 68:18 (Ephesians 4:8)
18. Thou art gone up on high, Thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men; yea, even for Thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among them.
(37) The Lord gave the word
11. The Lord gave the word: great was the company of [the preachers].
(38) How beautiful are the feet
Romans 10:15 (Isaiah 52:7)
15. How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
(39) Their sound is gone out
Romans 10:18 (Psalm 19:4)
18. their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world.
(40) Why do the nations so furiously rage together?
Psalm 2:1,2 (Acts 4:25-26)
1. Why do the heathen rage, and why do the people imagine a vain thing? 2. The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed,
(41) Let us break their bonds asunder
3. Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.
(42) He that dwelleth in heaven
4. He that dwelleth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision.
(43) Thou shalt break them
9. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
Revelation 19:6, 11:15, 19:16
6. Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. 11:15. . . the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever. Revelation 19:16. . . . KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS.
(45) I know that my redeemer liveth
Job 19:25, 26
25. I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand on the latter day upon the earth: 26. And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.
20. [For] now is Christ risen from the dead. . . the firstfruits of them that [sleep].
(46) Since by man came death
21. Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
(47) Behold I tell you a mystery
51. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed, 52. In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet;
(48) The trumpet shall sound
52. the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
(49) Then shall be brought to pass
1Corinthians 15:54b (Isaiah 25:8)
54. then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'
(50) O death where is thy sting?
1Corinthians 15:55-56 (Hosea 13:14)
55. O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? 56. The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
(51) But thanks be to God
1 Corinthians 15:57
57. But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(52) If God be for us
Romans 8:31, 33, 34
31. If God be for us, who can be against us? 33. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.
(53) Worthy is the Lamb
Revelation 5:12, 13
12. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. 13. . . . Blessing, and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. Amen.
I really need your full attention. This is important, and it’s not easy for me to say.
I’m sorry—just let me finish this last turn. … There, this chair leg is done. I’m listening. What’s going on?
Can we go somewhere and sit down? It would be better if we were sitting.
Sure, love. What is it? You’re making me nervous.
I’m not sure how to tell you this. I’ve been fretting about it for days. I don’t know how to explain what has happened.
What has happened, what do you mean, what has happened?
What has happened?
Well, do you remember about a week ago, when you came to Abba’s house for dinner and I was very quiet? You kept asking me if something was wrong, and I really never answered you. I think you may have gone home in a bit of a huff, feeling ignored.
Yes, I remember. Your whole appearance was a bit—I don’t know—different that day. Really, it has been ever since. You’ve been very quiet. Is everything alright?
Have you ever had an experience with God, you know, like in the scriptures, visitations, angels, anything like that?
No, not really, though there have been times, during my meditations, that I’ve felt the presence of something, God’s Spirit, I suppose you would say. But, I’ve never seen anything, if that’s what you mean.
Yes, that’s what I mean. Well, I saw something the other night.
Really? What was it? Tell me about it.
It was just after my evening prayers about a week ago. I rose to turn down the lamp, when, without warning, what looked like a man appeared in my chamber. He stood, blocking the door, so I backed up as best I could and put my chair between us.
Who was this man? Who would dare enter your chamber?
Wait Joseph, let me finish.
I knew he couldn’t be a man because he—how can I describe him—he was radiant. He could see that his appearance frightened me so he took a step back and then he began to speak.
"Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you."
This began to draw me away from fear and toward confusion. What did mean by “The Lord is with you?” Why would anyone call me “favored?” It was an odd greeting.
“Do not be afraid, Mary;” he continued, “for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.
Conceive? Bear a son?
Hear me out, Joseph. This visitor continued,
“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
Wait—what are you saying?
Joseph, let me finish. I didn’t understand either. I asked him “How can this be since I am a virgin?” Then the angel said,
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”
[standing] Did this man touch you—violate you?
It wasn’t a man Joseph, it was an angel. Please sit down, Joseph. The same angel that appeared to my uncle Zachariah before Elizabeth conceived.
[still standing] Did this angel violate you?
No, but it did happen just as he said it would. I am with child, Joseph. Somehow God Himself has given me this child?
That’s not how it works, Mary. If you are with child, you know how it happened. Was it the man who came into your chamber? Did you know him? Do I know him? I could have you stoned! You know that, right? How could you do this to me—to us? Why would you throw away our future like this?
Joseph, stop it. [beginning to cry] It’s not like that. I have never known a man in that way. How could you think such a thing?
But, you are with child—pregnant. That’s what you’re telling me? And you’re saying that God made you pregnant without the aid of a man. This is too much to take in.
I love you, Mary, and I will not make a public spectacle of you. But you have disgraced yourself. You have disgraced me—my family—your own family. What am I to do?
Oh Joseph, please believe me.
I cannot believe this. It’s too much, Mary. I’m not sure I could believe it, even if God Himself told me. These things just don’t happen. Not here. Not now.
I won’t shame you. I’ll just get the lawyers to draw up papers of divorce and we’ll be done.
Joseph, no, please.
No Mary, it’s too much.
[Joseph storms out, Mary is left crying, alone.]
To read the original story, see Luke 1:26-55
Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2016
For more stories brought to life out of the gospels, grab a copy of my book Encounters With Jesus. It has forty stories that will bring the Bible to life in your mind. You'll see the Lord heal lepers, open blind eyes and rise from the tomb.
This book would make a great Christmas present for someone who wants to get to know Jesus in a fresh way.
As a followup to the story of David I posted yesterday, 'Small Beginnings,' I thought I would re-post some comments from last Christmas. We look at Joseph, Mary's husband, and his relationship to David.
Here's the post from last year:
Have you ever wondered why Joseph lineage traced back to David? I mean, after all, he had no “blood in the game” so to speak. Jesus was "seed of the woman." Joseph was Jesus’ step-father.
I’ve heard it taught that Joseph’s lineage was what give Jesus right to the throne, but wouldn’t there have to be blood for that to be true?
His kingly blood came from momma Mary.
Joseph’s part was not one of blood.
Joseph had one very important part of the puzzle. His lineage took them back to that little town of Bethlehem.
Micah foretold an eternal ruler’s beginning.
"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,Too little to be among the clans of Judah,From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.His goings forth are from long ago,From the days of eternity." - Micah 5:2 NASB
The census decreed by Caesar in the fullness of Mary’s pregnancy required them to go to her husband’s ancestral home town for the counting.
It amazes me. Decade upon decade I’ve read these accounts of our Lord’s birth, and yet every reading exposes another layer. How complex and complete is our Lord’s mastery of time and events! I do so love You Lord.
As we were praying before worship rehearsal this morning, I was thinking about the fact that Christmas was past, but the service was still going to be Christmas themed. That’s OK by me. I'm not in a hurry to forget Christmas.
Then it struck me as we were still praying.
I’m so glad we are on this side of Christmas.
I’m ecstatic that Easter has come and gone.
I’m thrilled that Pentecost is in the past.
We live in the greatest age that has yet come to pass.
It’s the time period Abraham heard about in promise form.
It’s the time period Joseph dreamed of.
It’s the day David wrote songs about.
For the born again, Spirit filled person there is nothing in all of earth’s history that can compare to what we have in Christ.
It’s better for the believer than for the ancient Jews going into the promised land, walking across the Jordan on dry land.
It’s better for the believer than for Israel when Goliath came crashing down to earth.
It’s better for the believer than for Peter when he walked on water.
It’s better for the believer than for Adam and Eve in the garden before the fall.
We are partakers of a better covenant based on better promises.
But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. - Hebrews 8:6 NASB
We have the Spirit of the Living God in us--with us--working through us. And that's something they just couldn't know.
They cried out, "Come, thou long expected Jesus." We cry out "I've found the Messiah, come and follow Him with me."
I pray that in 2016, I am able to walk in the promises He has already revealed to me, and that my eyes and ears would be ready to see and hear more.
seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. - 2 Peter 1:3-4