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I remember as a child, whenever we were sitting somewhere and waiting, I often didn’t have anything to do. Unlike my own kids who can play with a smart devise while we wait, or often will have entertainment provided in the form of a toy or gadget, I rarely had such a thing. I remember I would play with my parents’ hands, whoever it was that was near. My mom’s hands were always very soft and tender. Sometimes I would play with the ends of her fingernails or her thin fingers, but I can clearly remember how silky and soft they were. They were always very clean and pristine. My dad’s hands were quite the opposite. His hands were thick and calloused from the hard manual labor of construction. His nails were always trimmed very short, the skin thick and dry. His hands were strong. It’s not that they were dirty, but they felt rough and edgy. My mom and dad’s hands were reflected the work they did, but also of who they were. Mom was the nurturer and caregiver. Her hands were hard-working, but in the most tender ways possible. My dad was the main provider, his hands did the hard and difficult work. He was the disciplinary, but was always the first to be a rock of steadiness and encouragement as well.

Our hands reflect who we are and what we do. Perhaps one of my most favorite accounts about hands comes from the story of this famous art piece known as “The Praying Hands.”

Two Durer brothers, of eighteen children, shared the same dream to pursue their talent and love of art. Being from a poor and large family, neither of them could afford to pay for university. They decided to flip a coin, the winner would attend art school while the other worked in the mines to pay. When the winner had completed his schooling, then the other brother would support the latter to attend as well.

Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to attend school. Albert worked in the mines in hard manual labor to support his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht showed great talent in various art forms and was beginning to make great money for various commissioned works.

When Albrecht returned home as his schooling was complete, the family celebrated with a great feast. Towards the end of the great celebration, Albrecht raised a toast to his brother Albert, who worked so hard in the mines to make it possible for him to gain his success. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”

All eyes turned to Albert who sat weeping and shaking his head as he quietly said, “no…no…no…No brother, I cannot go on to school. It’s too late for me. Look at my hands. Four years in the mines have destroyed them. Each of my fingers have been crushed, they are thick with calluses, I can’t even lift this glass in your toast because of arthritis. It’s to late for me to learn the fine motor skills that it takes to create fine details in art.”

Albrecht went on to create many great works of art during his lifetime. His most famous work is the one seen here, known as “The Praying Hands.” This sketch he created to honor the sacrifice that Albert gave to him. This drawing of rough strong hands show not only sacrifice, but love, honor, and faithfulness.

Strong hands are not always rough hands, and likewise, soft hands are not always a sign of weakness.

Today I was reading about David in 1 Samuel 23. Most people are familiar with David of the Bible. His most famous account, both in art and literary interpretation, is the story of when he defeated the giant, Goliath. He was a young, attractive and fearless fellow. He was anointed to become the next king of Israel. People quickly adored and followed him, even King Saul’s own children, Jonathan and Michal. It didn’t take long for Saul to become jealous of David and set his face towards killing him. Everywhere David went, people helped him. He narrowly escaped death by spear many times. He learned to run to save his life.

His favorite place to hide from Saul was in the barren desert region of Judea. This was home to David. He knew the best places to hide. No doubt, he knew this place so well from his time as a shepherd. This dry and arid place was merely a place to pass through. The wilderness attracted those on the fringes—outcasts, shepherds, fugitives, hermits, and even fearful rulers. These were the people who became David’s most trusted men. (1 Samuel 22:2)

The desert served as a refiner’s fire for David. Early on, when it would be easy for him to become arrogant and puffed up, David learned to depend instead, fully on the care of God. He was pressed on every side. The enemies that lived in the land threatened him, and his own people of Israel had turned their back to him in order to serve King Saul. David met great success all around him, and yet he no doubt felt the frailness of his own life as Saul continually pursued him.

The “dry and weary land” served as a backdrop for David’s own weariness. And the lack of water around him illustrated an even deeper thirst he felt: “My soul thirsts for You” (Psalm 63:1).

At the height of his emotional and physical distress, David sought refuge in his spiritual life.

He yearned for God. source

The biggest difference in David and Saul’s characters is seen at those most pressing moments. Saul easily gives in to the moment. He allows his desperation to control the outcome. David was driven by the understanding that God is greater and able to determine his reactions based on that. David defeats Goliath because God is greater and stronger. He doesn’t take Saul’s life because God is the giver of life. He bravely faces battle because he knows the battle belongs to the Lord.

But we all know there are times that the head and the heart don’t match up. The head knows the truth, but the heart believes the lie. The head knows God will provide, but the heart worries. The head knows God can heal, but the heart grows weak with illness. No matter the reality we know, the heart makes us weary in doubt and fear. The heart becomes dehydrated before our mind even thinks about thirst. From the inside out, we begin to die a little to our faith, especially the longer we endure in the unforgiving sun.

I love to read these stories of David. they are full of excitement and encouragement. Normally, when I have read over 1 Samuel in the past, I quickly read through 1 Samuel 23 trying to get to the part where David chooses to not kill Saul. The anticipation of David hiding in the very cave that Saul is in. I giggle a little to myself picturing Saul towards the mouth of the cave. The Bible gives the detail that he was “relieving himself,” which we will just leave at that. Little known to him, he has David trapped in this cave. He’s so preoccupied with reading the Readers Digest I guess, that he doesn’t even feel David sneak up and cut a part of his cloak off. Here is David’s chance to kill Saul, but instead he protects him from his own men.

David didn’t always know what to do. He wasn’t always the mighty warrior that he is most often memorialized as. He was indeed human. Like us all, in a dry land, he needed to be filled with living water.

Jonathan was one of Saul’s sons. He was in line to be the next king, however because Saul did not obey God (see 1 Samuel 15), he was rejected as king and God choose David to be the next king. Jonathan was not like his father, however. He trusted God to mightily fight for him in battle. Jonathan and David become extremely close. Jonathan is drawn to David’s faith in God, his courage in battle, and they form a unique friendship. Jonathan is not intimated by David’s greatness. They even promise to each other that they will protect and serve each other. Jonathan personally saves David many times, and  his own father even tries to kill him because of his friendship to David. Jonathan knew that David would be the next king, and he didn’t allow his pride to destroy their friendship.

It’s during this time in the desert, as David is fleeing from Saul, that Jonathan, for one final time, will risk going to David. Jonathan plays in important role in the character of David, a self-love of a true friend. Although David is the star in the story that is unfolding, in the background we catch a glimpse of Jonathan’s friendship to David.

One day near Horesh, David received the news that Saul was on the way to Ziph to search for him and kill him. Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. 1 Samuel 23:15-16

Saul was in hot pursuit of David. He had nearly caught him just prior to this, change David up a mountain. David escaped only because Saul was called out to protect his own country from the Philistines. Jonathan, perhaps stirred by the Spirit, feels to urgency to go to David to encourage him in his faith. The imagery in verse 16 is just simply awesome. (sorry I don’t have a better adjective for that.) “Encourage him to stay strong in his faith” is literally “strengthened his hand in God.” Before, when I had read this passage, I would have skimmed over that and thought nothing more, but this time it was as if Jonathan was speaking that encouragement to me. It was almost as if the Spirit took me by my hands, holding them out and said, “strengthen your hands.”

About a year ago, we were studying the book of Hebrews in a ladies Bible study. Hebrews is a book full of super encouraging verses, that I affectionately call “Life Verses”. Words to live by; words to encourage one’s faith. We were sharing favorite verses as a group, and my friend that leads the study pointed out this verse:

Hebrews 1212

 

This was a verse that never jumped out at me, but I immediately tucked it away in my heart to meditate and remember.

Some time had passed, I had been studying the book of Judges to teach the kids at church. I was reading about Gideon. He was an unlikely hero. Those are always my favorites. He was a man, who in his time, was part of a people who were forced to live in a harsh environment. He was preparing food, hiding in a wine-press, when he receives the call of God. He was addressed as “Mighty Warrior.” Someone who has to hide from fear is not usually looked upon as mighty. Gideon prepares an army for battle and is told he has too many men. After some narrowing down, he then is about to lead his tiny army of 300 men against thousands. The sun sets as his men make final preparations, and Gideon is told to sneak down into the enemy’s camp. If he is afraid or discouraged to go down to hear what the enemy is saying and so that “your hands will be strengthened.

There is was a again. There is no doubt that this is a call to arms. It’s a call to prepare the battle line with a strong-arm, but I think for Christians it’s more than just to feel “mighty”. For Jonathan he came to David to encourage him to believe in God. He wasn’t saying, “you are strong and mighty and are able to kill my dad.” It was a message to trust in God’s protection.

Earlier this year I was reading through the book of Isaiah, and once again I came across this theme of weak hands. In Isaiah 35, their hands were weak. They had been in that desert time.  A time when the people have been drained of life and hope. There hearts were a wasteland with no strength. In that moment of weakness, like a fresh rain, joy and life returns. Isaiah tells them to BE STRONG. FEAR NOT. God is coming to save them. Isaiah 35

Isaiah 35

Jonathan speaks truth to David. He has come for the purpose of encouraging David. It’s easy to think that people in great positions don’t need encouragement. We see them out there in the spotlight. They seem to have success in all they do, and it’s easy to think they are doing great. But that’s not the case. We need encouragement from others to press on. We need to know that what we are doing is important. We need to hear that even though life is extremely hard, God is there helping us. Working on us. We aren’t dying of thirst in the desert, but instead we are being refined. I’ve learned in my own refining moments this truth. Either the moment will refine me, or I will be refined in the moment. Whatever I am struggling with, I am not left alone to fight my way through. I can be strong; I can have strong hands, not because I am strong, but I serve a God who is stronger and HE is able to do it through me. and despite me.

This desert experience has part of the refining and preparations that David needed to become the greatest King of Israel. It was a time that taught him the importance to thirst. Not for things that only leave us lacking, but to thirst for that which really satisfies- the Living Water.

Psalm 63

A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
6 I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
9 But those plotting to destroy me will come to ruin.
They will go down into the depths of the earth.
10 They will die by the sword
and become the food of jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God.
All who swear to tell the truth will praise him,
while liars will be silenced.

click here for other verses about strengthening hands

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Already half way through the month and as we near the home stretch before Christmas I feel both relief and stress. Relief because of all the things that have occurred parties, decorating, Christmas shopping, and stress because of what is left to come. It’s nice, for me to take them time though, and adore the King as I study the passages for the Jesse Tree. These are absolutely some of my favorite stories!

Day 7: Josephimage

Day 8: Moses and the Law:

The inspiration behind this was taken from Deuteronomy 6 where we are told the importance to impress on our children the law of the Lord and to follow Him with all our hearts. It is the 10 commandments written to look like a finger print. IMG_6574 IMG_6575 IMG_6576

Day 9: The Promised Land:

This past year, I had focused on the theme of God as our shield. This passage below has inspired me to take some time in 2016 to study the theme of overcoming. I guess it’s very similar, but I can’t wait!

image

Day 10: Ruth and Boaz:

This past summer I used the Ruth study from She Reads Truth. As you can see, it left me with no extra room to add more. If you are looking for a simple and good study, I highly recommend this one. image image image image image image image imageimage

Day 11: King David:

This was hard for me to choose, because 1 Samuel 17 is a sort of  “Lesson for Life”. God doesn’t see things like we see things.

Of course I also wanted to illustrate the first real scene that pushes David to the forefront. image image

Day 12: King Josiah finds the scroll:

I love how in Josiah’s account it says that when he was 16 he began to seek the Lord. So good!image

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The other night, as the girls were playing on the computer and listening to music, I heard a song. It wasn’t just any song. It was one that had been instrumental (no pun intended) in my life. It was a sort of soundtrack to a hard place in my life that had become part of a turning point in my faith. I have many of those. It got me mind thinking of this journey through life, how we all have soundtracks. Songs that bring joy; others that remind us of loss. So the following is just a sample of songs that have helped me through those hard spots in life. It’s not really exhaustive, but these are the ones that stick out to me. Of course songs are no replacement to the Word. Promises, words of hope and truth are key, but these songs are a reflection to the truth found in the word. When I hear them I am reminded of the goodness of God, even when life is hard.

Ginny Owens: If You Want Me to:

Chris Tomlin: I Lift My Hands:

Crowder: Come as You are:

Jeremy Camp: I Still Believe:

Mercy Me: The Hurt and the Healer:

Nichole Nordeman: Every Season:

MercyMe: Here with Me:

Shane & Shane: Though You Slay Me:

MercyMe: Keep Singing:

 

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Jesse Tree day 19

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth. -Micah 5:2-4

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. -Luke 2:1-7

The name Bethlehem, literally means “house of bread”. It was a name of several towns in the area, which is even common for us today to find towns in different states with the same name. Miami, FL is nothing like Miami, OK. The people of Oklahoma don’t even pronounce it the same way.

The significance of the passage in Micah is that it names the specific town of Bethlehem, Bethlehem Ephrathah. This is the town that King David’s family derive. Other than David, the town is small and insignificant. It was a small town in the area of Judah, near Jerusalem, but in no way compared to Jerusalem’s significance. The Jewish scholars noted that this would be the town that the Messiah to come would be derived.

The first time this is noted is in Matthew. The entourage from the east arrived in Jerusalem in search of the King of the Jews. They meet Herod to ask for help finding him.  They had seen a great star and traveled the distance to worship the newly arrived king.

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”- Matthew 2:3-6

The priests and teachers of the Law recognized the significance of the prophecy in Micah. Having this bit of information, Herod send the foreigners on to Bethlehem to find this new king. He had secret plans to take him out. (We’ll discuss this more in a couple of days.)

There is another time when the teachers of the law bring of the prophecy of Bethlehem. We find this account in John 7. It is during the Feast of Tabernacles (the same time that Jesus will later proclaim “I AM the light of the world.”). Jesus’ brothers tried to tell him to go to Jerusalem and “show off” his miracles. Jesus hangs back, and later goes up to Jerusalem. Half way through the Feast, Jesus begins to teach in the temple area. Naturally a crowd is draw, amazed by his knowledge and speaking ability.

As crowd mentality tends to do, things seem to turn bad. There are some that no longer appreciate what he is teaching, because it contradicts their comfortable religious apathies. Speaking to the leaders, Jesus questions why they are trying to kill him (although they can’t because it’s not quite time). The crowd is confused. Some think he’s talking to them and that he’s a little crazy. Others understand the seriousness of the situation- that the leadership thinks he may be the Messiah.

At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” John 7:26-27

As the situation intensifies the religious leaders begin to go into panic mode. The crowd seems to begin to piece together what Jesus us claiming- He is God’s Son, the Messiah. They must stop him. They try to arrest Jesus, but are unable. (verse 30)

On the last day of the Festival, the situation continues to intensify. Jesus makes a huge proclamation, to try and clear the situation:

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. John 7:37-39

Jesse Tree Day 19

Jesus proclaims- I am the Messiah. At this the crowd is thrown into more confusion. Some hear what he is saying but don’t quite put it all together. They call him the Prophet, referring to the one before the Messiah (who was John the Baptist). Other have put it all together and understand. Jesus is the Messiah. Then there is some disagreement.

Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. John 7:41-44

 

There are some who believe that because Jesus was from the Galilee area, that the Bethlehem mentioned in the gospels was twisted later. They claim that he was really born in Bethlehem of Galilee, not Judea. They claim that the writers of the gospels changed the city to the one prophesied so that the prophecy would then have been fulfilled. I can’t help but think that this argument is invalid. Why would the writers of the gospels point out this same argument that even the people of Jesus time used. The people knew Jesus was from Nazareth, the Galilee area. That’s part of the confusion about him being the Messiah. The people (well, some of them) were familiar with the Messiah as to come from Judah. Jesus’ birth was unknown to them, and what they didn’t see was that the prophesy was correct and was fulfilled in Jesus.

So what is the significance of Jesus being born in Bethlehem of Judea, David’s birthplace? We have studied the covenant, or promise, that God made to David. God would protect his line for kings and would one day send the Savior from this line. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem not only fulfills the prophecy from Micah, but the other prophecies and promises made about David. Jesus is the root of Jesse fulfilled.

Family Devotion:

gather old family pictures, birth certificates, etc., Bible and ornament

Look together through pictures or other birth keepsakes. Talk about your children’s birth, memories you have, things you’ve kept to remember it. Read the Micah passage together. Explain the significance of Jesus’ birthplace. Not only was the Micah passage fulfilled, but all the prophesies about the Messiah to come. Pray together, thanking God for His word that is true.

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Jesse Tree Day 18

Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:30-34

Jeremiah was the prophet know as the Weeping Prophet. He served the southern kingdom during the time from King Josiah (who we recently studied) through the time of the fall of Jerusalem. During his ministry, very few people listened to him. Instead he was mocked, tortured, imprisoned, and mistreated. At one point he is even carried away with other exiles to Egypt. He messages were mostly full of judgement and wrath to come for the way the people disregarded God’s laws.

God had established a promise with the people of Israel all the way back to the time of Moses (Deut. 6). Promises he made was an agreement to be kept, called a covenant. Some of the covenants that God made with people at various times were one-sided, like with Noah after the flood. Other people who God made covenants with were Adam, Abraham, Moses, and David.

To Abraham God made this covenant:

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2-3

He also made the same covenant to Isaac, and Jacob (later known as Israel). He would create a nation, a chosen people, and provide a place for them to live. The promise was then extended through Moses. They were to stop worshipping other gods. God would provide a sacrificial system for the people to follow as part of the covenant. They were to keep the laws and only worship God. In return God would take care of them, protect them, and would forgive their sins. If they broke the covenant, they would be sent away to exile.

It is on the heels of the exile that we find God foretelling of a new covenant to come. Under the old covenant, children would be punished for the sins of their parents. They were to make reminders of God’s law all around them to help them follow him more closely. Under the old covenant they would have to make sacrifices to appease the guilt of sin. But God had a plan in the works for something better.

Jesse Tree day 18

No longer would the people struggle to follow and keep God’s law. The New Covenant would be different.

The New Covenant would begin with the sacrifice the Jesus made on the cross. The Old covenant had established that a priest would make a sacrifice once a year that would pay for the people’s sins.

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:11-12

Once the New Covenant was completed in Christ’s death and resurrection, He sent the Holy Spirit to come as a seal of the New Covenant. I believe this is what Jeremiah is referring to in the prophecy above. No longer will we have to struggle to remember to keep the Law. No longer will we wonder or doubt. If a person has recognized the debt owed for sin and receives the forgiveness offered only through Jesus’ sacrifice, then the Spirit dwells within them. His job is to remind me of God’s laws and holiness.

“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.

Salvation is for all, not only the promised people of Israel. The people of Israel were to be a light to the nations around them. God was willing to accept any who worshipped him, but rejected the people who didn’t, even his own. The New covenant offers forgiveness of sins, something the old covenant could never offer. Now all peoples are under the same obligation. The new covenant begins with this command:

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Acts 16:31

Family Devotion:

flour, tape, 2 dark-colored contraction paper or fabric, scrapbook paper pre taped to look like a cross the same size as the walking area, Bible and Ornament

Read the passage above in Jeremiah about the new covenant. Ahead of time tape off an area in your kitchen or bathroom that is longer than the distance your kids could jump (about 4 feet). Sprinkle flour all inside this taped off area, and place the dark paper at the other end. Explain that Moses gave the people of Israel the instructions for animal sacrifice. Although an animal was killed every year to wash away the wrongs they did, it was never a complete sacrifice. Have the kids try to get from one end of the flour to the other (where the black paper is) without getting flour on their feet. No matter how hard they try, they either can’t make it, or will step in the flour. The animal sacrifices never were enough. Jeremiah promised the people that a new Covenant was to come. With it, God would change their hearts. Cover the flour area with the “Jesus” paper and change the black piece to a clean piece. This time walk across, and you will have clean feet on the other side. Jesus sacrifice is the only one that can remove all our sins. Pray together, thanking God for the New Covenant. Then clean up the messy flour together.

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 Jesse Tree Day 17

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors. -Isaiah 53

So far, all the prophecies that we have looked at with Isaiah have been positive. They have shown us the goodness of God or hope to come in Christ’s return. But absolutely none of that would be possible without the great suffering that Christ would have to go through, and I’m not talking about him dying on the cross alone.

Crucifixion was a masterful way to make people suffer. The Romans had mastered torture and utter humiliation well. It was a very common way to be sentenced to death in the time of Jesus. In fact, thousands of people had died on the cross. It’s not the cross alone that makes Jesus death redemptive. It wasn’t the hanging on the cross in front of huge crowds naked, or the suffocation for hours as he struggled just to take a breath of air. Neither was it the constant mocking of the crowd, the betrayal of his best friends, or the pure agony and suffering that made that cross so difficult.

The beatings he received before dying were not uncommon either. The soldiers who were in charge of beatings were professionals. They knew exactly how much to beat a person without killing him. They carefully designed their tools of suffering to inflict the most pain and damage. Thirty-nine lashes were a human engineering masterpiece. They could bring a person nearest to death without completely taking him out. Ripping flesh from all sides of the body. But again, it wasn’t the beating combined with the crucifixion that made his death glorious.

The suffering of the Servant includes these, but is much more. Jesus never came to live a good life. He came with the purpose of replacement. He laid aside every right that he had as God. Instead of being worshiped and honored, he was despised and rejected. Instead of his glorious presence being known, the bright illumination of his existence, he looked like an average, humble Jewish man. Instead of being honored and celebrated, he was oppressed and judged. This was just the beginning.

He is God’s Son and has never been anything put perfect, pure, and Holy. When God poured out his wrath for the sin of all man kind, how great the wrath, Jesus received every bit of hell and judgment that could be poured out. He separated himself with the nature of God, and took on the punishment of mankind. He was crushed and suffered great loss. When all damnation was poured out and the price was paid in full, Jesus breathed his last and died.

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

In the death of Jesus we have redemption from our sins, but that isn’t the end of what he did. Death wasn’t enough. We need more than redemption. Three days he laid dead. The fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy is also seen in his resurrection.

After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

Jesse Tree 17

In his death we have redemption, but his life he gives us the power to overcome sin. No longer are we bound to the death grip of sin but have the victory to overcome. Paul explains it this way,

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:18-21

We can overcome sin because as believers the Holy Spirit lives in us. Bettering our actions is not what life is about. Living as Jesus- honoring God, loving your neighbor- in all I do is what it’s all about. I am no longer bound to sin, but have the same power to be greater. The power that Jesus displayed in overcoming death is the power I have to overcome sin’s effectiveness.

Before Christ I could be a better person, but it was all about me doing it and for the purpose of my own glory as a good person. After the salvation through Christ, I am empowered through the Spirit, who draws me to him. It’s not about me being a better me. It’s about me being more like Jesus himself, and for no other reason than to bring glory and honor to His own name.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:4-10

Family Devotion:

Gather a plate (I recommend a bowl for it’s concave shape), penny, small candle, glass with colored water, and something to light the candle Click on this link for complete instructions. Bible and ornament

Read the passage together. Explain to your family how this was written over 600 years before Jesus was born. It describes Jesus death and why he came. He came to pay for the debt we owed God for our sin. Follow the instructions linked above to illustrate how Jesus took away our sin. He did it, not by removing it, like a stain, but it became his burden that he had to be punished for. Pray together thanking God  for Jesus, and the power to overcome sin.

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Jesse Tree day 14

“See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.
“Never again will there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his years;
the one who dies at a hundred
will be thought a mere child;
the one who fails to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.
They will build houses and dwell in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
the work of their hands.
They will not labor in vain,
nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the Lord,
they and their descendants with them.

Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
and dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord. -Isaiah 65:7-25

This passage is very similar to the passage we looked at yesterday in Isaiah about the stump of Jesse. Isaiah here is clearly describing a scene that even we are currently waiting for. A day to come, one of life without sickness, no more injustice, or fear.

I think that zoos have ruined us. They have made it so that we don’t understand truly how animals in the wild behave. In particular I am thinking of the lion. Most of the time when we visit the lions, we can barely see them, and usually they are sleeping. The seems like gentle giant cats, wasting the day away hidden. It’s hard to imagine these beasts as the king of the animals. They have a majestic look about them, but other than the giant claws and sharp teeth, it’s easy to think of them as giants kitties.

I remember many years ago visiting a small zoo (long before we had kids). It was a small “we bought a zoo” type, owned by a family who locally operated it. We were there that day at the same time as a school group of kids. The nice draw to these kind of zoos is that most of the enclosures are small and close. I remember the kids were all gathered near the lions and were screaming and taunting the lions. For the most part, the lions seemed to barely notice. After the crowd moved on, we can closer to see them. After a short while they began to roar and “bark”. It was power and loud. There was no doubt they were angry and fierce.

Of course thanks to Animal Planet and National Geographic we know how strong these animals really are. They prey on the weak. Although lions have great strength, they use the weaknesses of their prey. Lions have been used as mascots for nearly every mighty nation. Ferocious and terrible.

These verses in Isaiah describe the wolf and the lamb eating together, but it also describes the lion as one that will eat straw like an ox. No longer will animals kill and devour other animals. Could this possibly be how creation was intended before the fall?

IMG_6771For the reader it is a promise of peace to come. One day all will be restored. This past year has been one of those years that you want to ask God why? Why is there cancer that rips loved ones from us? Why do people who live holy lives have to pass in the middle of the night? Why are children taken from us before they ever have a chance to fully live? Why does it seems that unrighteous people get all they want, but other struggle everyday to scrape by? Why are children abused and shaken? Why, God, why?

and then we sit in silence to our unanswered questions.

I think this passage speaks a message of hope to some of those questions. It doesn’t tell us the answer of why (although I don’t think that would make any difference to know why), but it tells us that there is a bigger plan.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. -Romans 8:18-22

The lion will lay down with the lamb. It’s a symbol of the new creation. When Christ returns and all have passed through the final judgement, God will create a new place and finally all will be restored. There will be no more suffering

Family Devotion:

gather pictures of places you will want to visit one day, pictures of space, unique vacations spots. Bible and ornament

Read the passage in Isaiah. Explain that context that this is describing. One day everything in creation will be made new. Talk about what heaven may be like, as described in Revelation 21. We don’t know exactly what we will be doing or how things will look, but we do know what it won’t be like. Pray thanking God for Jesus and pray for others, family and friends, that don’t know him as Savior.

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