Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Freedom, Justice, Righteousness

Reading: Jeremiah 33: 14-15

Verse 15: “I will make a righteous branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land”.

This week’s readings begin with two days in Jeremiah 33. This chapter is titled “Promise of Restoration” in my Bible. Jeremiah was a prophet who spoke to Israel during a time of difficulty. The Israelites were under the domination of the Assyrians and then the Babylonians. They longed for freedom and a time when they could fully live as the people of God. The Israelites desired to live under God’s leadership alone, to return to a time when justice and goodness were the norm. These desires are some of the deepest desires of every human being. All of humanity desires freedom, justice, and goodness to be the hallmarks of their society and communities.

Speaking to these people living in captivity, Jeremiah proclaims these words from God: “I will make a righteous branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land”. The just and good leader will be Jesus Christ. Born in the city of David, born in the family tree, will be the baby Jesus. About 600 years before God arrived in the flesh, Jeremiah points to this fulfillment of God’s promise made to David. Jeremiah speaks of a leader who will be “just and right”. In the healings and restorative works that he offered, Jesus certainly treated those on the edges and margins with justice. He valued them; he saw them as worthy and beloved. He freed them from the bonds that separated them from community. In all he said and did, Jesus modeled righteousness. Being fully obedient to God, Jesus gave us the perfect example of what it looks like to love God with all that we are and to love neighbor as self. Jesus embodied freedom and justice and goodness.

As we draw near to the season of Advent may we seek to follow Jesus’ example, living a life of freedom in Christ, bearing justice for all, and bringing goodness to all. May it be so!

Prayer: Lord God, what an awesome example Jesus set for us. Use me today to share your love with others, enabling them to experience and know the freedom, justice, and righteousness that you offer to the world. Amen.

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Like a Mighty River

Reading: Ezekiel 34: 20-24

Verse 22: “I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another”.

In today’s reading Ezekiel turns his focus to those who are leading, to those who are in charge. The Babylonians were powerful. They exerted their might and took many Israelites into captivity. In exile, the Israelites lived in a society that favored the privileged and wealthy, that allowed greed to exploit the weak, that turned a blind eye to injustice. Those who were wealthy, greedy, unjust are the “fat sheep” that Ezekiel refers to. As one considers our nation today, Ezekiel could very well be writing in 2020.

The ways of greed and inequity and oppression are not the ways that God intends for us to live. God therefore pledges to judge between the fat and lean sheep. God sees how the wealthy and powerful “shove with flank and shoulder”, forcing their agendas, manipulating the weaker, the less powerful. God will intervene, God will put an end to the sins being committed against his children. In verse 22 we read, “I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another”.

Plunder is an interesting choice of words. It maybe feels like an old term, an outdated term. Yet it is very relevant today. A man in our community invested many years earning an advanced degree in college. He is a skilled professional in the medical field. The major corporation that he works for unilaterally cut all people in his profession to 30 hours a week. He, like his colleagues, now has no benefits. This corporation has plundered these people.

God promises to save his flock, to judge between the sheep. There is a promise to end greed, oppression, and injustice. To those living in exile, to those living in unjust systems today, these words speak hope. To the fat sheep, these words should be a warning, a call towards self-reflection. But only the sheep with ears to hear will be changed.

Just as God sent Ezekiel to the exiles in Babylon, we read that God will send David to the Israelites who are surrounded by enemies, who live daily under threat of assault. In time God will come in the flesh, bringing hope and salvation to the people oppressed by the Romans and their own religious leaders. Jesus charged his followers to do as he did: feed the hungry, tend to the sick and lonely and imprisoned, clothe the naked, unbind the captives, bring sight to the blind. It is no wonder many Jews thought Jesus the second coming of Ezekiel.

As we seek to do these things, to follow the example of Christ, we do so with the realization that they run counter to our culture, against the ways of greed and power, in defiance of the oppression and injustice that is too prevalent in our nation. May the Lord our God empower us as we seek to be light and love, peace and compassion, mercy and justice to the world.

Prayer: Lord God, give me feet to walk the narrow road, the hard path. Give me courage to stand for those who are weak, lean, powerful, voiceless. May your justice roll down like a mighty river. Amen.

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The Way

Reading: Isaiah 35: 1-10

Verse 8: “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness”.

Isaiah 35 paints a picture of hope for all peoples. For those of Isaiah’s time, those living in captivity in Babylon would envision a future back in the Promised Land with hope. For the Jews living in Jesus’ day, they would envision a future of hope too. Their vision would not include the Romans or any other overlord. For Christians living today, we read this passage and envision a day when all of creation is restored to new life. For each group, the Messiah is the focal point. The one who frees and brings healing and wholeness is what is awaited.

Isaiah writes, “the wilderness will rejoice and blossom”. What was dry and without life will flow with water and new life will spring up. The shoot from the stump of Jesse – that which we just read about in Isaiah 11 and Romans 15 – will bring healing to all things. As believers in Jesus Christ, we know that the Messiah has come. Jesus brought life to our dryness and his living waters bubble up within us, like springs in the desert, renewing and refreshing us.

In verse eight we read, “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness”. As followers of Jesus Christ we know this highway. In repentance and faithful obedience we walk this road every day. It is not an eight lane super highway. It is a narrow path. While it is narrow his yoke is easy and the burden light. Once we enter the Way of Holiness, life lived in Christ, the journey becomes purposeful and the steps are clear. The steps are not always easy to take, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, they are clear. It is a road that once walked brings joy, love, hope, peace, and so much more. As we walk in the Way, we approach Zion and the everlasting crown referred to at the end of Isaiah 35. May the Lord bless the journey today.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for walking with me. Because you are always there, I never go alone. Thank you for your abiding presence and guiding Spirit. Lead me today, O great Jehovah. Amen.

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Reading: Jeremiah 33: 14-16

Verse 15: “I will make a righteous branch sprout from David’s line, he will do what is just and right in the land”.

Chapter 33 begins with the promise to restore Israel. God promises to heal Israel and to bring them out of Babylonian captivity. They will return to their homeland and rebuild what was destroyed. God promises that the sounds of joy and laughter will return and the fortunes of the land will be restored. God will again bless them with flocks on the hills – all under God’s hand.

God speaks into their immediate situation to remind them of the promises that were given to their ancestors. The promises of healing and restoration, of forgiveness and love, are still there. God always keeps His promises. God’s side of the covenants to Abraham… are kept by God regardless of the failings and sins of His children.

In our passage today, God speaks of a ruler or king who will come, saying, “I will make a righteous branch sprout from David’s line, he will do what is just and right in the land”. As Christians, we read these words and think, “Jesus”! However, the people who received these words from the prophet Jeremiah probably did not think “Messiah”. They would simply think of a king like the great King David – one who was strong and powerful, one who brought peace and justice to the land. The idea of a good king ruling over a restored and free people back in the Promised Land would have been how Jeremiah’s audience would hear this promise from God.

Chapter 33 goes on to reiterate the promises of God to establish an heir of David on the throne and of the covenants that will continue like the day and night, each going on at their appointed times. Many, many years later and scores and scores of kings later, there is a true King on the throne of God’s people. The family looks a bit different. But the reality is that Jesus is Lord over God’s people. The Righteous One came from David’s line, just as we can read these into today’s passage. With Jesus came not only healing and restoration, forgiveness and love, but salvation as well. Thank you Jesus! Thank you God for the gift of your Son, Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, we still cling to your promises. Use me to bring the hope and light and love of the good news and its saving power to all I meet today who are lost or hurting or broken. For my King, I say thank you too! Amen.


All in for You

Reading: Amos 8: 7-12

The time of action and judgment has come for the people of Israel.  These people who wanted to focus on money and crops instead of worship will get what they want.  They had endured worship and the Sabbath like it was a chore.  So God has chosen to grant their desire – He will step away from His people.  He will allow His petulant children to live without Him for a while.  A time is drawing near when a foreign king will conquer and destroy.  God will be a silent, non-involved observer.  Public worship will not occur in captivity and there is no Bible yet.  It will be a difficult time for Israel.

It is hard for us to imagine what it would be like to have all of our churches shut down.  It is even harder to imagine that our access to the Word of God could be removed.  We have easy access to physical Bibles and constant access to a myriad of virtual Bibles.  So imagine for a moment if all access to the Word were removed and we could not gather for worship.  It would be very hard to remain connected to God and our faith.

Although this idea of no access to God or His Word seems so foreign to us who have easy access to these things, our attitudes at times are not so far removed from those of the people of Amos’s time.  We have all been reluctant worshippers.  We have all looked at our watches or cell phones as we creep past the time church was supposed to end.  We have all drug our feet or scowled all the way to church and part way through it.  This is not the worship God desires.

Lord, make our hearts like Your heart.  Help us to love you with all we are.  Lead our spirit to seek Your Spirit.  Draw us into You.  Move us to offer all of ourselves in grateful response to Your love and mercy that never fail.  May we be all in for You, O Lord.

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True Hope

Reading: Psalm 126

The psalm begins with the memory of captivity and exile and moves into a time to sow and then to wait for the harvest.  The darkest hour seems to have passed and new life and hope seem just around the corner.  To wait for the harvest takes time and patience and trust but also comes with expectancy and hope.  One day new life will spring up, hope will continue to grow, and then a joyous harvest will be reaped.

This cycle of life can represent our faith journey as well.  As we begin to move past a time in the desert, we begin to see signs of hope as well.  Out of the trial we begin to see how we were refined or strengthened by the trial.  From the work that God was doing in us or in our lives, we begin to see new life take shape.  It sprouts and there is an excitement and hope and promise.  Over time it grows and comes to be something that gives hope and light and love to others.  We are bearing fruit and planting seeds in others that will one day sprout in the lives of others.  As we use the gifts and experiences we had have to walk alongside others in times of trial, we can help them begin to see the hope we find in Christ as we journey together.

It is within the work of resurrection on the cross that we have our true hope.  It is because of God’s love expressed through Jesus Christ that we have this true hope.  The true hope of eternal life is the source of our strength and trust in Him.  This true hope is what shines within us and also shines out to bring hope and light and love to those in darkness.  May we ever share the good news within us with a world so in need.

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Prepare the Way!

Zechariah’s prophecy about his son John continues today.  Often as a parent we can embellish stories about our children a bit.  But in this case it is not really Zechariah speaking.  He is filled by the Holy Spirit and it is really God speaking through him.  The words come from above.

John will be a messanger.  As with all messangers, he is sent before to prepare for another’s arrival.  He does not come to announce himself or to promote his own agenda, but to prepare the way for Jesus’ arrival and ministry.  John’s role is complimentary.

In Jesus and His life, God is about to offer up the saving act of salvation.  Through Jesus Christ, God is providing the means to reconcile us to God and to free us from captivity to and fear of sin and death.  John came to prepare the people for this mighty act of God.  In order to prepare the people, John preached in the desert about sin and offered a baptism of repentance.  He prepared the way for the coming Savior by making people aware of their sin and the need to repent of their sins.

As we walk through Advent, we too are called to prepare ourselves for the the coming of the King.  John’s message about seeing our sin and repenting is as applicable today as it was when he first preached it.  If we are to be ready to receive our Savior on Christmas Eve, we must look within and wrestle with our sins and temptations and work make ourselves ready.  May we see our sins, repent, and prepare for the coming of our Lord and Savior!

Scripture reference: Luke 1: 76-79