Category Archives: Anticipation

Anticipation: Day 14, Extraordinary Openness

Standard

 

Just once sentence today, a nice change from the paragraphs of days past.

“The eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.” Isaiah 35:5

I’ve been thinking today about what it would be like to suddenly be able to see or hear after a lifetime of darkness and silence and the closest thing I could imagine it might be like is the experience I had in Miami last fall. After spending over four months in northeastern Nicaragua, I had managed to pick up a surprising amount of Spanish conversationally. By the time I left Waspam, I felt like I could understand roughly two-thirds of whatever someone would say to me (assuming they didn’t give me a taste of my own medicine and instead spoke nice and slow). I was so pleased with my progress, both in comprehension and courage in regards to conversing back (my weaker area by far). But still, two-thirds is only two-thirds. So often I felt like I was in my own little world. I felt so isolated while riding my bike through the market; surrounded by people but totally uncomprehending of anything they said. I felt deaf to my environment, and, furthermore, blind to the meanings behind whatever nonverbal cues they might be giving me. As a natural socialite, this separation was like a constant ache.

And then I flew in to the Miami airport. All of the sudden someone flipped the lights on and turned off the mute button. I understood everything! (never have I been so happy while eavesdropping!) The world was open for me, my walls had been broken down and I was no longer isolated.

In an even more dramatic, I can imagine things were similar for those whom Jesus healed. With one word or gesture, He opened up an entire world that was closed off to them before, a world they had never even encountered.

Jesus has opened my eyes and cleared my ears

As we anticipate His coming today, think about what areas of your life He was opened up. How has He opened your eyes to truth? How has he opened your ears to His worship and love?

Advertisements

Anticipation: Day 13, Once Upon a Time in a Land Far, Far Away….

Standard

I’ll be honest, when I first read today’s verse, I thought, “I must have written the reference down wrong, because this doesn’t make any sense. I see stuff about camels, but nothing about Jesus here.” And then I remembered: wise men. Duh! Sorry guys, guess I kind of forgot about you.

“A herd of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.”                 Isaiah 60:6

You can see the intended reference to the time when the Queen of Sheba came to visit King Solomon. While I don’t think there were precisely three kings and camels from orient are at Jesus’ bedside, I doubt Mary and Joseph were crowded out by “herds covering the land” either.

Who were these men, anyway? My opinion is that they were men from somewhere in Persia who had a few drops of Jewish blood in them. Not enough to be looking for a Messiah to worship and give their lives to, but just enough to be curious and see some mystical benefit from the visit.

The majority of the book of Isaiah foretells of the coming exile of the northern kingdom of Israel into Assyria, which happened in 722 BC. About 150 years later, Babylon comes along and takes over everything in the area, including the Assyrians. You can imagine that quite of bit of scattering and chaos happens at this point. The Jews living in Judah are carted off to Babylon and are eventually freed seventy years later, but what about the Jews who were already exiled by Assyria? Some of them came back too, but a lot of them were lost and never returned to Israel. Maybe they had abandoned God and no longer identified themselves a Jews (not that they were acting particularly Godly before they were exiled!), who knows. My theory is that some of those Assyrian-captive Jews allowed themselves to become absorbed into the culture, syncretizing their own beliefs with those popular around them. Fast forward a few hundred years, and the result is a few wise men looking for a King of the Jews who come seemingly  out of nowhere. The Gospels never record these men as becoming believers, or even staying in Israel to see how things turn out with this baby-King they’d found. For whatever reason, these men wanted to see the King so badly they left their homes and brought gifts.

I find great comfort in this idea, because it shows me that Jesus draws people to Him, even when they don’t completely understand who He is or what He stands for. As someone who feels called by God to share His truth with those who think they know Him but have been deceived, I am encouraged that once that door of curiosity is opened, the Holy Spirit can work His way to bring the seeker to a point of understanding and surrender.

Anticipation: Day 12, Broken Pieces

Standard

“I told them, ‘ If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’ So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, ‘throw it to the potter’ – the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.”                 Zechariah 11:12-13

This entire chapter is rich with analogies depicting ungodly leadership as bad shepherding. Leaders who put themselves first, do whatever it takes just to make more money. People who have no commitment or actual affection for those God has given them to lead, but instead grow bored and give up at the first sign of difficulty.

And in the midst of this theme, in slips a tiny passage that would go unnoticed if it weren’t for the striking precision of the prophecy: “the handsome price at which they valued me… thirty pieces of silver”. For the standard price with which you could buy a slave, Judas, a man personally chosen by Jesus to be a leader, put himself in shackles. And, like a lamb being led to the slaughter, Jesus allowed this man who was supposed to care for His people to destroy their One True Hope.

Today, as I ponder Jesus’ life, I meditate on the two examples of a shepherd and just how much can be at stake when a leader refuses to lead as God would.

Anticipation: Day 11, Perspective

Standard

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you. He is just and endowed with salvation, humble,  and mounted on a donkey. Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”          Zechariah 9:9

We all know the scene. [insert children with construction-paper palm branches here] Hosanna, Hosanna. Finally, He’s here! It’s really happening, the Messiah, our salvation! Life is finally going to change, everything is going to turn out now.  The streets of Jerusalem are rejoicing and celebrating. All for the wrong reasons.

The Messiah had come and life really was on the brink of utter transformation. The King was going to battle, but no one else knew what He did: He was going to die. This victorious King  was riding in for the moment for which He will be exalted for all eternity: crucifixion.

Thousands of years later, and on this side of the empty tomb, we join with the crowds as Zechariah encourages us to, rejoicing and shouting in celebration, because we know what’s coming. This man “endowed with salvation” is about to bring it to the world.

Anticipation: Day 10, Dismissed

Standard

“ 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.”                       Isaiah 53:3-6

As we read yesterday, this passage just a few verses prior discusses how Jesus had no outward reason to attract our attention. Here, we see that at the very climax of his life, when everyone is finally looking at him, we purposefully looked away. We dismissed him. God in human flesh, sacrificing himself for every person on the earth, and he isn’t enough to keep our focus. Instead, we wander off, following whatever wooly, pea-brained distractions cross our fancies.

But in the unparalleled love that forms the very fiber of His character, Jesus resolutely continues, purposefully pursuing the cross while we disregard him with thoughts like “not-worth-my-time” or worse, “he had it coming”. Jesus shows the discipline and devotion we so clearly lack, and shows it to allow us into relationship with Him! And because of His unrelenting commitment, we have the humbling privilege of experience an incredible irony. We dismissed Jesus, and He died. But if we acknowledge Him, God dismisses our sin.

“The punishment that brought us peace”. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Healing. It’s incredible….

Anticipation: Day 9, Growing Beauty

Standard

My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.            Isaiah 53:2

How incredible would it be if it could be said of us that we “grew up in the Lord’s presence”? That we lived our lives like Mary at Jesus’ feet, truly abiding in His fullness. Feasting on His goodness and truth, allowing Him to be our sustenance and provision. We would end up like Moses, face glowing as the inevitable reflection of God’s glory.

This is why people were drawn to Jesus: He radiated God. Eternally part of the God-head, Jesus lived His earthly life in constant communion with His Father by the Spirit, knowing that his “nourishment [came] from doing the will of God, who sent [him], and from finishing his work.” He may not have been physically attractive or charismatic; He might not have been an eloquent philosopher or public speaker; but He shone with the light of God, drawing desperate souls in this dark world.

Anticipation: Day 8, Prosperity, Pain and Legacy

Standard

See, my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted. But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man. And he will startle many nations. Kings will stand speechless in his presence. For they will see what they had not been told; they will understand what they had not heart about.”        Isaiah 52: 13-15

There is such contrast in these verses. God is proclaiming that his coming Son will prosper, and to further explain that prosperity he brings us to Jesus’ crucifixion. Not exactly what I’d consider prosperous, being murdered by your own creation as the consequence of their sin. This word translated as “prosper” (yaskil in Hebrew) is used in other places as the natural result of wisdom or prudence. It’s like God is saying that Jesus acted wisely, and therefore will be eternally exalted and prosperous because of that wisdom.

I find great encouragement in this truth. Jesus suffered hard. He was broken physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally. But He did so in wisdom, knowing that He was building a legacy. Through this act of sacrifice, Jesus would reap the prosperity of millions of hearts turned back to their Father in repentance and transformation.

This is the incredible beauty of our God. He puts pain in our lives, just like He did in Jesus’, but promises us that He will redeem that pain. I find such comfort in knowing that as I wrestle-out this life against the flesh and the “evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world”, I am gaining ground for the legacy that will come after me.

A favorite artist of mine just put out his first worship album. This song, based on Isaiah 52 and 53, is incredible, both lyrically and musically. Listen to it and worship the greatness of our sacrificially-loving God.

The might of Yahweh stands revealed
And by His wounds we all are healed!