A Word From Our Sponsor: One Who Encounters God

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1)

Encounters with God differ for everyone.  Some engage Him in prayer, some through the Scriptures, while others do so through praises and singing.  Revelations and visions were rare occurrences.  God appeared unexpectedly to certain people to give them a special message for those whom He sought out.  Most of the time, these revelations and vision were about God’s redemption, that is, saving people from their troubles or delivering them from their enemies or destructive circumstances.

God engaged Isaiah in such an occasion.  One day, he entered God’s temple to worship the LORD.  Suddenly, the LORD appeared to him.  Isaiah saw the LORD sitting on His throne above him in a robe that filled the entire temple.  He also saw certain heavenly creatures called seraphim, crying out to another,

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (6:3)

Just as God’s glory filled the temple, these creatures proclaimed that this same glory filled the entire earth.  The power of this vision and the voice crying out caused the temple to shake.  Stunned as he was, Isaiah could do nothing but cry out,

Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts” (6:5).

One of he seraphim comes to Isaiah and touched his lips with a piece of coal, and pronounced him clean.

Immediately after the seraphim did this, the LORD Himself asked,

Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (6:8)

Isaiah replied,

“Here am I! Send me” (6:8).

The LORD then gave Isaiah a commission and with it a message to give to the Jewish people,

“Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed” (6:9-10)

Isaiah and the LORD continued in their conversation.

Many strange things exist in this incident between Isaiah and the LORD.  Additionally, the message the LORD gave to Isaiah is highly enigmatic.  Without delving deep into the passage, we can make a number of observations about Isaiah’s encounter with God.  First, God is the LORD (Yahweh), the God of all and everyone.  He is the sovereign and only God in all existence.  He recognizes those who do not accept His position and pronouncements of Himself and His declarations.  Second, He does not leave rebellious people without witness and revelation of Himself.  During Isaiah’s time as well as during the eras of the other prophets, He revealed Himself to Israel and others through His declared word.  Third, God’s word has immense power.  When He speaks, His word can shake the entire earth and the hearts of individuals.  We learn of such power elsewhere in the New Testament letter of Hebrews where the author declares,

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).

This power engaged Isaiah’s heart to the point that he recognized his own sinful state before a holy God.  Here he was in the temple of God preparing to worship God.  Yet he recognized that his standing in the presence of the holy God who speaks holy words yielded a confession of his own destitute position.  He declared himself “unclean” and one who lived among a rebellious people.  He saw himself not in the position to be before this God.

Fourth, God’s word changes hearts.  After Isaiah heard the words of the seraphim, he immediately confessed his sinful predicament and the predicament of his fellow countrymen.

Fifth, God’s word not only changes hearts, but it also motivates one to do God’s will.  After the seraph touched Isaiah’s lips with a piece of burning coal, the LORD spoke to him in the form of a question.  The LORD basically asked Isaiah who will accomplish His mission.  Isaiah did not allow a moment to pass without a swift reply, “Me!  I will!”  God’s word so changed Isaiah that it redirected his focus to others.

The message the LORD gave to Isaiah seems rather strange, because it was a negative one.  Close their ears and understanding so they will not turn to Him.  Why did the LORD want Isaiah to give Israel a negative message so they reject Him?  God had His purpose,

But yet a tenth will be in it, And will return and be for consuming, As a terebinth tree or as an oak, Whose stump remains when it is cut down. So the holy seed shall be its stump” (Isaiah 6:13).

The LORD speaks about a “holy seed.”  The word the LORD gave to Israel would come to a people who resists His will until the time of the “holy seed.”  This “holy seed” is the promised Messiah who will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).  Much like the message Isaiah received from the LORD, the message of Messiah will also turn people away.  However, like God’s word to Isaiah, its power will turn the hearts of people everywhere to Him, causing them to confess their sins and to seek His redemption.  Isaiah is an example of the power of God’s word.  It not only saves but it motivates toward a mission.  This passage gives great encouragement for every Christian in every nation that God’s word will accomplish His purpose in and through those He saves so that the whole earth will eventually realize the glory of God and become His temple in which all will do His will.

Advertisements

Surprised by Grace: Anna

Shortly after Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary take Him to the Temple according to the Law of Moses.  They meet with Simeon and receive his blessing and prophesy.  Afterwards, they encounter an old woman who virtually made the Temple her home.  Her name was Anna.  This poem is dedicated to her and attempts to capture her deepest desires and yearnings for Moshiach (Messiah).

Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38, NKJV)

I am an old woman

Drawn, gaunt, waiting for the Dawn[1]

Praying evening and morning for Moshiach (Messiah)

Oh, Bethlehem, city of David

His star hovers above you

Patiently giving its eternal light to the End of Days[2]

Shining and making way for the Deliverer of His people

As the prophet cries in the wilderness, so my cries rise to Him

To come oh come Emmanuel.

I am an old woman

Bent, lowly, waiting for the Dawn

Fasting and praying evening and morning

Till Shabbat[3] arrives for His people at the End of Days

When Moshiach shall appear and save His people from their enemies

The final enemy who swallows dust

Moshiach shall crush his head –

Conquered and defeated forever –

The death of death in the death of Moshiach[4]

Who lives and shall return for His people

As the prophet spoke:

“Only what the LORD speaks can I speak.”[5]

The Ancient of Days has spoken so shall I prophesy also, an old woman

Full of days waiting to be gathered with my people

Waiting for Moshiach

His kingdom come

His will be done

Heaven and earth singing His name:

Moshiach, Moshiach

Bearing gifts to celebrate His coming –

Oh come, oh come Emmanuel

The one who perceives the thoughts of the Most High

The Star of Jacob who shines everlasting light[6]

The light of the world[7]Menorah

The darkness cannot comprehend[8]

Hiding as it does cringing in terror when His Star arises

And gives light to everyone coming into the world[9]

As the evening makes way for the Dawn and Shalom comes to His people.

His kingdom comes.

I am an old woman

Eighty-four years a virgin

Betrothed to One

Waiting for the Bridegroom to arrive in His glorious chariot – my oil ready and lamp trimmed –

As it touches the earth and makes all things new[10]

The New Jerusalem, Shabbat Shalom –

The Bridegroom – superior to Melchizedek

The king of the Great City of God.

The Bridegroom will claim His inheritance

With all of His people in final Shalom –

The Ruler who comes out of Jacob

Moshiach, Moshiach.

He tarries for but a moment

Until the dispensation of the fullness of times[11]

A thousand years to us in our yearnings and desires

A twinkling of an eye to Him until the guarantee of our inheritance.[12]

I am an old woman.

I serve my Moshiach

Fasting and praying night and day in the Temple of Moshiach

For His people and for His return to take His people to be with Him –

In the New Jerusalem, the City of the Almighty –

The El Shaddai of our Father Abraham

His people’s Shield and Deliverer.

I am an old woman.

I go now to render service to Moshiach

Fasting and praying evening and morning

Until He comes to take me to my new home.

But wait! Who comes up the steps?

Whose feet make their way through the Temple doors?

I lift my lamp to cast away the shadows.

A woman sings softly to her babe as she cradles Him gently in her arms

And walks quietly through the Temple

With her husband, thoughtful, righteous, beside her

Joyful smiles spread on their faces as the light masters the shadows

And caresses the baby’s face, and the Light shines in the darkness

The Light of the World!

It is He! Moshiach! Moshiach!

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD,

For He is good! For His mercy endures forever!”[13]

He has fulfilled His promise:

The Redemption of Jerusalem![14]

_________________________________________

[1] Luke 1:78

[2] Numbers 24:14

[3] Sabbath rest

[4] This phrase refers to the title of the Puritan writer John Owen’s treatise “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” in which Owen explains the atonement of Christ.

[5] Numbers 24:13

[6] Numbers 24:16

[7] John 8:12

[8] John 1:5

[9] John 1:9

[10] Revelation 21:5

[11] Ephesians 1:10

[12] Ephesians 1:14

[13] Psalm 118:29

[14] Matthew 2:38

Copyright (c) 2014 Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.

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.