After being slandered, mocked, spat upon, and beaten, Jesus is led to a Roman cross. There, the soldiers strip Him of His clothes and divide His garments among themselves, casting lots for His tunic. The baby of Luke 2 is the Man hanging naked in John 19:23-24. All this, for the sake of our atonement.
God is glorified in His mercy. He is also glorified in His judgement of sin. In Jerusalem’s captivity, God reveals Himself as a God who keeps His word (Deuteronomy 28:58-68) and displays justice, holiness, and infinite power.But how can God be both merciful and just? Doesn’t His justice nullify His mercy, and vice versa? When we look at Christmas, we have to say “no.”
Imagine the anxiety when Sennacherib of Assyra shows up in Judah, 8 years after the North's exile, with these words: “Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?... Have they rescued Samaria from my hand?” (2 Kings 18:33-34). It was true. Samaria had been crushed by Assyria...would that same hand now wreckJudah?
Israel sacrificed her children in fire and used divination and yet claimed to “know” the Lord (Hosea 8:2-3). In what ways does sin deceive our hearts into believing that we are “close to God” when, in reality, we are far from Him? Does God’s patience and willing forgiveness inspire obedient praise or does it expose a presumptuous heart? Let's examine ourselves this Advent season as we wait to greet the Savior with our full and humble submission, gratitude, and love. Amen.
Reading 2 Kings 14 brings to mind Jonah 4:2; there, Jonah calls God gracious and merciful, “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” The description captures God’s hesed or steadfast love. Jonah’s phrasing is seen throughout Scripture but first appears in Exodus 34:6 during God’s covenant renewal with Israel. The Northern Kingdom was called to belong to a patient God who relents from disaster. God’s far-reaching kindness elects to help a rebellious king and his people. In Jonah’s ministry, we can see God’s mercy extended to those who are far and near: wicked Nineveh and wayward Israel are helped. Who then is beyond His grace?
God told Israel there would be blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience ( Deuteronomy 28). God’s Word proves true! So how should believers today understand this correlation between behavior and blessings/curses? Do faithful believers encounter hardships? Absolutely (2 Corinthians 11:24-29). Does God discipline and reprove His children? He does indeed (Hebrews 12:5-6). Yet in all that, know for certain that the active obedience of Christ secures for the believer the unfailing and never-ending blessings of the Father.
The floods have lifted up their voice. But the LORD on high is mightier than the thunders of many waters (Psalm 93:3-4). And He hears prayer.
I listen to teachers who tend to stress (and rightfully so, I believe) our inability to please God on the basis of our own righteousness. Christians are not justified by their works but by faith in the work of Christ on their behalf (Galatians 2:16). But does this mean that God is only pleased with Christ and never pleased with us? Are the works of believers always and only filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6)?
The God who clothed a despairing Adam and Eve doesn’t change (Genesis 3:21)! That same God justified a filthy high priest named Joshua and He continues to exchange insufficient coverings for a garment of His own making (Zechariah 3:4-5). Those who trust in Him alone for salvation receive a robe made white by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14). “Naked, I come to Thee for dress; helpless, I look to Thee for grace." I’m so thankful that Jesus, the Rock of Ages, is my all-sufficient covering!
Most of us know stories of people who have shared beautifully from God’s Word, only to turn to bent paths and beliefs. These stories should always make us cling all the more to Christ and His Word, knowing that we too are susceptible to unbiblical ideas and ways, if not for the grace of God.
If I had known that the little baby--whose sleeplessness often tested my patience--would grow up to pray for my rest, I would have maintained more joy on those weary nights. But I didn’t know; and there’s been many other moments of impatience and failure as a mom in my daughter’s young life. But love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
As I read the story of Christ’s birth, I wonder: what “looks” did Mary endure when “found” to be with child in Matthew 1:18? Did her cheeks burn under the gaze of Nazareth? Did she suffer shame at the eyes of a doubting Joseph (Matthew 1:19)?
It’s amazing to consider that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” and under the ignominy of a curious pregnancy (Galatians 4:4).
My husband and I are the thankful parents of two precious daughters. We would be grateful for a third child and have prayed for over two years for this gift without conception.
I’m technically infertile with what is known as secondary infertility. Here, a couple that has already produced, at least one child, will suddenly face difficulty conceiving another. In most cases, couples are considered infertile after a year of trying without conception.
Both motherhood and the desire for more children have proved useful instruments in God’s hands, dissecting and revealing my heart. As I kneel today to pray for a third child, here are three truths that resound:
My first day watching porn was also my last. I was nine when an adult neighbor took me to a house where several of her friends were gathered. The men and women came knowing the agenda—to watch hours of pornographic videos. I was placed on a man’s lap, and the tapes were played. At one point, my neighbor asked if I “felt” anything. I said no, and the group laughed.
I remember the day now as the end of something immeasurably precious—the gift of being innocent and unashamed. I’ve often mourned for my nine-year-old self, her soul plundered and her naiveté stripped. I grieve for her and fear for my two small daughters. What images (and God forbid, touches) might be lurking, waiting to take their innocence? God help us.
Read the full article at Christianity Today.
For nine months, Zechariah must employ the use of a writing tablet for communication (Luke 1:63). He must have scribbled these amazing words for Elizabeth’s reading for in Luke 1:59-60, she insists on the name John for her son. Here, I wonder if Elizabeth longed for her husband’s voice in these months. Her first and second trimesters are spent in hiding (Luke 1:24). These must have been quiet months for the expectant mother. A picture, perhaps, of Israel’s own 400 years of waiting in silence for the fulfillment of God’s promise.
As Israel uncovers herself to whore with Baal for the price children and rain, the God of heaven and earth looks and declares: “no birth, no pregnancy, no conception! Even if they bring up children, I will bereave them till none is left. Woe to them when I depart from them (Hosea 9:11-12)! Yet His burning anger in Hosea is graciously weaved with the hope of His salvation. And so He beckons: “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12). Like a loving Husband longing for the contrition of His adulterous wife, God, through Hosea, calls His people to return (Hosea 14:1-4).
The woman who struggles to take hold of God’s promise now grips the feet of God’s prophet in thanksgiving. I’m reminded here of Abraham who, when given a son through the deadness of Sarah’s womb, believed that God could raise even the dead (Hebrews 11:19). Yes, God gives His children good gifts. Yet His blessings are always meant to offer more than mere provision--they are given to reveal more of Him to us. And that is by far the greatest reward of all!
The widow had nothing but a single jar of oil. Elisha tells her to borrow many vessels from her neighbors. Her jar of oil would miraculously multiply as she poured it into each vessel. God’s means of provision for this woman sends her to many doors on that day—the more she knocked on, the more vessels she would receive. The more vessels she borrowed, the more oil she would have for her son’s freedom and for their livelihood (2 Kings 4: 2-7).
Why is Elijah sent to this widow? There is no indication of her earning God’s election and favor. She was not among the people of Israel and she herself testifies of her sins. Clearly, she doesn’t choose God but He chooses her (John 15:16). He saves her just as He has and will redeem all those He has predestined for adoption as children through Jesus Christ; this is according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His own glorious grace (Ephesians 1:5-11)! Sisters, salvation is of the LORD. I will sing of the glorious grace that saves sinners like me!