Jesus the New Israel

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness, James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum

As part of my message this past weekend on Daniel 12, “Faith at the End of All Things,” I shared a list of parallels about how Jesus is not only Savior and Forgiver, but also takes all the history of Israel into Himself and becomes the new Israel as the Messiah. A number of people asked if I would share that list, and so I’m doing that here.

A Messiah will come and bring hope and life for humanity. He will be like the Son of Man figure in Daniel 7, worthy of worship and like God. But he will also take all the history of Israel into himself and bring its fulfillment through His life death and resurrection. And so:

  • Jesus’ humble birth at the edges of civilization parallels Israel’s humble beginnings as a nomadic tribe of Abraham.
  • Jesus’ baptism parallels Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea after the Exodus
  • Jesus’ testing in the desert for 40 days parallels Israel’s wandering in the wilderness for 40 years
  • Jesus’ teaching and miracles as God’s tabernacle in flesh parallels the building of the tabernacle and temple where heaven touched earth in God’s presence
  • Jesus’ death on the Cross parallels the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the overrunning of God’s people
  • Jesus’ burial in the tomb parallels the exile of God’s people from the Promised Land
  • Jesus’ resurrection in the tomb parallels the double exodus of liberation from slavery in Egypt and liberation from exile in Babylon
  • And Jesus ascension to the Father’s right hand parallels the future resurrection that awaits humanity at the end of our lives and the cataclysmic end of human history at Christ’s return

This is why, with Peter, we can celebrate Jesus as not only our Forgiver and Savior, but the resurrected bringer of hope with God for humanity.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

Finding God: Jesus

Jesus-Christmas[This is the final devotional I wrote for Eastbrook Church‘s Advent 2018 devotional. Find the daily journey through Advent here.]

“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 2:6-7)

The distance between expectations and reality is often one of the greatest strains on us as people. When our expected hopes never arrive we can easily descend into frustration or disillusionment. “What happens to a dream deferred?”, Langston Hughes asks in his famous poem, “Harlem,” about unrealized equality. The final lines summarize one aspect of that angst-filled reality: “Maybe it just sags / like a heavy load. / Or does it explode?” Endless anticipation that is never realized tumbles from the high peaks of hope into the chasms of hopelessness.

Yet when our anticipated hopes do arrive it is like the flash of glorious sunlight across the mountain peaks. It is like drinking a glass of clear, cool water on a hot, humid day. In the depths of our being we rise up into that realized hope and say: “Yes! Finally! This is what I have been waiting for!”

The birth of Jesus is not only the culmination of our Advent journey, but also the realization of all our greatest longings as human beings. In the words of the old hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”: “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Jesus arrives, bringing the peace of God Isaiah prophesied, the hope of God that Elizabeth tasted, the joy of God John the Baptist preached about, and the love of God that Mary felt deep within her.

Jesus, “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), “who was with God in the beginning” (John 1:2), is now nestled in the warm flesh and solid bone of humanity at His birth in Bethlehem. God has done it! Our dreams are no longer deferred but met in Him here and now. God has drawn near and the wonder of this moment invites us into awe-filled wonder and worship again. So, let us do that today. Let us join our voices with the women and men of God throughout all the ages to speak praise from the depths of our soul to Jesus, our infant king:

O come, let us adore Him!
O come, let us adore Him!
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

Reflect:

  • How has your life with God been different from what you thought it to be?
  • What has been the greatest part of knowing you are loved by God, loved by Him so much that He sent His very own son to die in your place?

A Prayer for Christmas Day (from the Revised Common Lectionary):

God of glory,
your splendor shines from a manger in Bethlehem,
where the Light of the world is humbly born
into the darkness of human night.
Open our eyes to Christ’s presence in the shadows of our world,
so that we, like him, may become beacons of your justice,
and defenders of all for whom there is no room. Amen.

Finding Love: Mary

advent-mary.jpg[This is the devotional I wrote for the fourth week of Eastbrook Church‘s Advent 2018 devotional. Join in with the daily journey through Advent here.]

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:46-48)

“Love is blind.” At least, that is how the saying goes. The phrase means that when love is in play, a person is prone to overlook, or just plain fail to see, the problems within the person being loved. There is some truth to that, but the kind of love we all deeply desire is a love that truthfully sees everything about us and still loves us. Love that is blind – that turns away from reality – is false love, while love that sees – that leans into reality – is real love.

John 3:16 is such a well-known Scripture passage because it describes God’s love as real love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17). In the midst of a world stuck in the cycle of death, Jesus the Son of God comes to bring liberating life. Even as the world could potentially be condemned because of evil and injustice, God takes a different route by sending Jesus to save the world. Jesus Himself echoes this later when He says, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). We see in Jesus the Messiah that God’s love is an eyes-open love, leaning into the reality of our world and our lives. Jesus shows us just how far God will go to hold us in His loving embrace.

When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, announcing God’s plan to bring the Messiah to birth through her, Mary was astounded. Her question, “How will this be?”, was both a question about the manner of the Messianic birth since she was a virgin and simultaneously a question about the possibility that something like this could occur in human history. When Gabriel emphasized God’s decisive plan to intervene through Jesus as Messiah, such knowledge eventually leads Mary to erupt with praise: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation” (Luke 1:46-47, 50).

That little word ‘mercy’ is an echo of the Hebrew word hesed, which refers to God’s uniquely steady and faithful love. Mary grasps, and shares with us today, that God sees what is really there in the world and still chooses to love humanity from generation to generation throughout the earth. Mary becomes a picture not only of humble obedience to God’s call, but also boisterous praise of God’s love. As we draw close to Christmas Day, let us join Mary’s wondrous call to praise our God whose love is not blind, but rather eyes-open about us and our world. Let us draw near with anticipation to experience once again   the tenderly tenacious love of God found in Jesus the Messiah.

Reflect:

  • What difference does it make to you that God loves you—no matter what, just as you are?
  • Who in your life needs to hear that God loves them…absolutely and completely? How and when will you tell them?

A Prayer for the fourth Sunday of Advent (from the Revised Common Lectionary):

O God of Elizabeth and Mary,
you visited your servants with news of the world’s redemption
in the coming of the Savior.
Make our hearts leap with joy,
and fill our mouths with songs of praise,
that we may announce glad tidings of peace,
and welcome the Christ in our midst. Amen.

Join in with the daily Advent devotional here.

Summary Chart on Daniel’s visions

Daniel Series GFX_App WideIn my message this past weekend at Eastbrook Church from Daniel 10:1-12:4, “Faith and the Final Vision,” I shared a chart that I adapted from Sidney Greidanus‘ book Preaching Christ from Daniel. I want to thank Pete Briscoe for recommending the book to me because it has been an invaluable resource, along with many other resources, as I’ve preached through Daniel over the past months. You can download the chart as a PDF in landscape formatting here. However, I’m also inserting it into this blog post in portrait orientation below.

Daniel 2 Daniel 7 Daniel 8 Daniel 10-12 Kingdom Dates
Head of gold Lion with eagles’ wings     Babylon 605-539 BC
Chest and arms of silver Bear with one side higher than the other Ram with 2 horns, 1 longer King Cyrus (10:1)

Three kings (11:2a)

Fourth king (11:2b)

Medo-Persia 539-331 BC
Belly and thighs of bronze Leopard with 4 wings, 4 heads Fast goat with 4 horns Warrior king (11:3)

Kingdom divided to four winds (11:4)

Alexander (Greece)

 

4 generals

 

331-323 BC

 

Kings of south (11:5-20)

Kings of north (11:6-20)

Ptolemies

Seleucids

323-63 BC
Contemptible one (11:21-35) Antiochus IV 175-164 BC
Legs of iron

Feet & toes of iron and clay

Monster with iron teeth, 10 horns     Rome 63 BC-AD 476
10 kings Present period
Stone smashes statue God burns the monster Little horn destroyed The king (11:36-45)

King destroyed (11:45)

Time of anguish (12:1)

Antichrist Final days
Mountain fills the whole earth Kingdom given to son of man and God’s people   God’s people delivered (12:1)

Resurrection (12:2; 12:13)

The wise exalted

Kingdom of God Everlasting
From Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from Daniel (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012), 344.

Finding Joy: John the Baptist

advent 3 - joy.jpg[This is the devotional I wrote for the third week of Eastbrook Church‘s Advent 2018 devotional. Join in with the daily journey through Advent here.]

“You are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.” (Luke 1:13-14)

“And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.” (Luke 2:18)

In the lead up to Jesus’ birth, John the Baptist is one of the most vital characters, promised as a forerunner to the Messiah and a source of many people’s rejoicing. As a preacher before the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, John preaches to the crowds outside of Jerusalem in rural spaces near the Jordan River. His outfit is eye-catching and his diet is more than a little interesting, but not in the socially acceptable ways: “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4). His first recorded words at the start of a sermon were “You brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7). If John is trying to live out the part of an outsider prophet, he is doing a good job. But how does that fit with the promise of rejoicing attached to him in the angel Gabriel’s prophetic message to his father, Zechariah?

Sometimes, real joy requires a wake-up call. A study of people who had breakthroughs to greater meaning and joy in their lives, sometimes called “awakening experiences,” showed that these breakthroughs were often triggered by some form of psychological turmoil, such as stress, loss, or bereavement. While the breakthrough was an overwhelmingly positive experience, the pathway to get there was intensely difficult. As C. S. Lewis writes in The Problem of Pain: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Difficulty, even suffering, can serve as a wake-up call to joy.

And so, John the Baptist stands by the Jordan River’s edge, issuing a wake-up call to humanity. He refuses to mince words about what is distracting them from God’s best, whether it be specific sins or the pleasures of life. Even today, John’s words call us out of zombie-like distraction and back to attentive anticipation as we prepare for the joyful wonder of Christmas. All around us the frenzy of activity and acquisition ratchets up higher and higher in this holiday season. But do we hear the grating words of that camel-skin-wearing, locust-eating prophet cutting through the false promises of the sales pitch?

He tells us that there is another way to joy, a way that is found in Jesus the Messiah, who has come and will come again. John the Baptist reminds us that Jesus prayed we “may have the full measure of joy” (John 17:13), and that it is found in Him who is the bringer of “great joy for all people” (Luke 2:10).

Reflect:

  • Have you experienced a “wake-up call” that has led to greater joy in your life? If so, how did God turn it around into something to rejoice over?
  • How specifically has the arrival of Jesus in your life brought you joy? List as many ways as you can.

A Prayer for the third Sunday of Advent (from the Revised Common Lectionary):

God of timeless grace,
you fill us with joyful expectation.
Make us ready for the message that prepares the way,
that with uprightness of heart and holy joy
we may eagerly await the kingdom of your Son, Jesus Christ,
who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

Join in with the daily Advent devotional here.