Into Your Hands

Just before Jesus expended His last breath, He cried to His Father,Hope

Into Your hand I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Those nearby who were well acquainted with the Scriptures, especially the Psalms would have recognized that He recited Psalm 31:5.  He had the word of God on His lips with His final breath.  It sustained Him throughout His life.  In one incident when He encountered Satan, Satan said to Jesus,

If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread” (Matthew 4:3).

Jesus replied from Torah,

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (4:4).

Satan continued to try trip him by also quoting Scripture back to Jesus out of context.  However, Jesus knew the Scriptures well and would not be fooled by Satan’s trickery.  Jesus frequently used Scriptures in countering the arguments of the Pharisees and Sadducees and giving a defense for His Father and His decrees and declarations.  He taught the truth of the Scriptures to His disciples so they would gain strength from them in time of need and be able to offer a defense for the truth in the life of Jesus.  The Scriptures became Jesus’ sustenance in life and in death.

His example teaches us that the Scriptures are our authority and their content are lamp and life.  Relying on the Scriptures is relying on God.  Both God and His word are the content and strength of our lives.  The particular passage from Psalm 31:5 illustrates this assurance.  King David never knew that the Messiah, the Son of God, his offspring would quote from his psalm.  He never knew the vitality of his psalm for all subsequent generations.  He never realized that this truth would give assurance to so many.  Although he wrote it initially for himself, we recognize that he also intended it to be for the entire congregation of God.  The heading informs us of his purpose,

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.”

He saw commitment to God his lifelong vision and allegiance, even in death, because he recognized God was his redeemer (Psalm 31:5).  He gives a litany of distresses and troubles he encountered throughout his life and concludes,

But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand” (31:14-15).

At the conclusion of his psalm, David turns to his audience, the congregation for whom he intended it and announces,

Oh, love the LORD, all you His saints! For the LORD preserves the faithful, And fully repays the proud person. Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD.”

He wants to assure them that commitment to God meant safety, because those whom God considers “saints” or set-aside ones are safe in His hands.  They can be courageous and hopeful, knowing that the strength and power to endure hardship comes from God.  God holds His saints tightly in His hand.  Jesus, our Savior set the example on the cross when He cried to His Father,

Into Your hands I commit My spirit” Luke 23:46.

God is our Father, also, and we like Jesus can trust Him to care for us.

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EVERYTHING NEW FOR 2015

The vast number of us enter 2015 with the greeting, “Happy New Year!”

As we look out our windows, many of us see a brisk cold morning, because 80% of the United States experiences a freeze.  However, that does not stop us from enjoying a fresh start in a new year.  As we view the landscape of the new year and review the old road behind us with all of its experiences and the wisdom it left us, we can plant our feet on the starting line of the new and give thought to fresh expectations and goals.  What guides them?

The Bible offers us some tips on all things new for paving our journey to which we can gain freshness and hope in things to come.  Many of the passages below give encouragement, strengthen our faith, and provide confidence of God’s sovereignty and providence from which we can draw for engaging the days to come be they good or difficult.

All references are from the New King James Version.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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“Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy” (Psalm 33:3).

“He has put a new song in my mouth– Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3).

“I will sing a new song to You, O God; On a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You” (Psalm 144:9).

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them” (Isaiah 42:9).

“Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

“Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).

“For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

“But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26-29).

“And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many” (Mark 14:24).

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15).

“…and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:23-24).

“And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).

“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).

“Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning” (1 John 2:7).

“To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it” (Revelation 2:17).

“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:12).

“And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

“They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth” (Revelation 14:3).

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1).

“Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful” (Revelation 21:5).

Surprised by Grace: Simeon

The prophets of Israel longed to know about which they spoke. Peter wrote of them,

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:10-12).

Suffering played a key role in the early church, and Peter wrote to these suffering Christians to encourage them so they would not lose heart. He used the role of suffering to illustrate that just as Christ suffered, so also must they in a world which sin turned upside down. We gather from what Peter wrote a deep sense of longing arising from both the prophets and angels of God for the coming of Messiah and the redemption He brings. However, God gave the prophets a limited message beyond which they could not speak or even know. God also informed the angels that even they could comprehend only so much.

God alone laid out His plan in perfect order down the corridor of time, and He alone would fulfill the promise of grace made in ages past concerning the ultimate grace He would bestow on humanity through Messiah. God used suffering to prepare the world for this Messiah event. He did so that people would not look to themselves or their resources for deliverance but to Him, the Mighty God, Deliverer, and Holy One of Israel.

The time finally arrived. Anticipation rose to its highest peak. God now commanded His angels to shout gladness and joy from the heavens, their desire fulfilled. A star announced the Consolation of Israel and the Gentiles. Magi arrived at the house in which the baby slept and bestowed gifts at the feet of this newborn (Matthew 2:11). They looked upon the grace of God with awe.

There is more. Grace awaited an old man who longed for Messiah. He knew he would not die or face Nunc demittis[1] or “Now you dismiss,”

Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32, New Revised Standard Version).

Like the prophets of old and the angels, Simeon simply longed for Messiah. He knew God would fulfill His promise. But when? Signs pointed to a future time, but no one knew exactly not even the prophets. He lived to serve God. The Scriptures describe him as “just and devout,” or righteous and God-fearing. Luke emphasizes that he communed with the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit was his constant guide and companion. While Simeon walked with and in the Spirit, the coming of Messiah remained undisclosed.

One day, the Holy Spirit sent him to the Temple. To Simeon, this prompting must have been simply a normal one. His communion with the Spirit was a common occurrence from what the Scriptures suggest. Off he went down the dusty street, perhaps praying as he walked with the tentative gait his age conveyed on him. He goes about his worship, a custom he relished. He hears footsteps echoing down the Temple corridor. These were not the normal footsteps of routine visitors making their way in to offer worship.

His half-closed eyes widened. Is it…? Can it be? He straightens himself up as much as an old man could and makes his way to his feet from his knees. His anticipation heightens as he begins to tremble. He squints and sees two shadows coming closer and closer. A couple enters the light of the Menorah candles on the altar. The woman carries a baby in her arms. Yes! Yes! Surprised by grace. Messiah! He stretches out his arms with a soft smile and tears streaming from his eyes. The woman comes closer and hands him the baby as Simeon sighs with joy. He speaks,

Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32, New Revised Standard Version).

He pauses, turns to the woman, and continues,

Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35, NKJV).

He performs his final service for his God. He declares Messiah and His mission. He prophesies the agony and pain His mother will experience. He tells of the promise fulfilled for redeeming the lost. He calls for God to give his Nunc demittis (“Now you are dismissing”) so he can rejoice with the angels in heaven. He passes the mantle to John to declare,

Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight” (Mark 1:3).

[1] Latin for Simeon’s words after he saw Jesus and translates into English as Now you are dismissing or Allow me to depart. It is often sung as an evening canticle at Christmas.