Jesus the Lamb of God

This is a sermon I preached recently that I wanted to share (it didn’t go exactly the way it is written, but more or less)(yeah, it went faster than it feels):

Central proposition: As the Lamb of God, Jesus brought to fulfillment the long awaited prophecies about the Messiah who would bring deliverance and set up God’s kingdom in the world.

Let’s read together John 1:29-34.

This morning I want to focus on mainly verse 29 where John the Baptist declares to his disciples and those passing by: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

Sometimes, when we read the Bible, if we come across a verse that stands out to us or seems to be saying something important, it is often a good idea to take some time and reflect deeper on what is being said. It can be good from time to time to camp out on a verse and take some time to think it though and understand its implications. The second half of John 1:29 is one of those verses. “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

Perhaps you have heard or read this verse before, probably you’ve read it lots of times and even heard the song with the words, ‘Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.’ Even though we may have heard this verse before I want to take some time and reflect on what this statement means and what it means for our lives, why it is important. It is important we understand the greatness of John’s declaration about Jesus.  It is an amazing statement, if not a bold one.

I wonder what kind of an effect it had on those who first heard them? John the Baptist declared to those who would listen that this Jesus from Nazareth, a local and a mere carpenter, was someone of worldwide and infinite significance.

Things were tense in first century Israel and the people were at a near frenzy with anticipation of a coming messiah deliverer who would set them free from a long and tough Roman oppression. They had just come out of the troubled Hasmonean Dynasty and were still picking up the pieces following the Maccabean Revolt not too many years prior. The people of Israel just wanted to be left alone to live their lives and worship their God and be Jewish.

Tensions were mounting. Various rebel leaders and self proclaimed messiah deliverers had come and gone such as Judas the Galilean mentioned in Acts 5:37 who lead a revolt among the people and yet was killed. Israel was tired of Roman oppression and was crying out to God for deliverance. Sound familiar?

Then along comes John the Baptist, an obscure unknown prophet-like man in weird clothes who ate locusts. He showed up declaring in effect, that all the prophecies and revelations of the Old Testament that looked forward to a Savior and a deliverer had finally been fulfilled in another relatively obscure fellow Jesus of Nazareth — whom John prophesied was “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”

I can imagine this was somewhat shocking to the people of Israel and can explain why the Jewish leadership sent some emissaries out to interrogate John about his claims.  He probably was not helping calm the expectations of the people but only served to build on the anticipation.

God heard their cry and knew their situation. It is true the people of Israel needed deliverance and that God would bring it. However, the deliverance God was bringing to his people was a different kind of deliverance than what they were expecting or hoping for. What did John the Baptist mean by calling Jesus the LAMB of God? Was he talking about his gentle, meek disposition? Was he referring to the fact that he was innocent and pure?  Perhaps.

More likely, however, while Jesus does have his moments as a meek and gentle man, John’s reason for calling him the Lamb of God goes much deeper than a mere description of his personal disposition. In this strong declarative statement about Jesus by John the Baptist we are going to see that John, the author of the Fourth Gospel, was certain portions of the Old Testament in the light of Jesus’ work on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.

As the Lamb of God Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant who was led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin-offering (Isaiah 53:7, 10).

As the Lamb of God Jesus bore our sins on the cross. There are different things that come to mind when one hears the phrase “lamb of God.”

One of the first is the reference to the lamb in Isaiah 53. This is often a debated point between Jews and Christians. The Jews and even those who spend a lot of time studying the Old Testament argue that within Judaism the prophecy in Isaiah 53 was not interpreted messianically.

So, some are quick to not want this passage to necessarily refer to Jesus’ work on the cross but I think it is impossible not to and rather appropriate to do so. When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead everything about how the Hebrew Scriptures were understood was radically changed. Before some things were unclear in their meaning and hard to understand, but now they are made clear and known to all – that much of the Hebrew Scriptures were fulfilled in the person Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Much of the Old Testament is now understood through this revelation.

(example/illustration) I once heard a story about some Jewish parents being upset a teacher was teaching about Christianity in one of their children’s classes. I can’t remember the context and do not know if this is real or not but to defend herself the teacher read from the passage she read in class. The parents immediately got upset and maintained their accusation against the teacher. Well, it turned out she was reading from Isaiah 53. The parents were in shock and they were silenced. It is hard to dispute that Isaiah prophecy is speaking of anyone other than Jesus Christ and his work on the cross.

Lets look at the passage briefly.  Let’s read Isaiah 53:4-7.

This part of the prophecy really begins at 52:13 and carries over. It comes in a series of prophecies about a person scholars call the Servant of the Lord that begins at Isaiah 42. This person was to come and bring salvation to Israel and the nations by overthrowing oppression and injustice and destroying evil. In the process he would free Israel from their oppressors and restore the glory of God to the nation of Israel so that the nations would not want to destroy them but come rather to the mountain of the Lord in Jerusalem and worship God or YHWH, the God of Israel. One thing was overlooked however, this section of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Servant of the Lord, who is the Messiah.

Somehow it had been overlooked that Israel needed a spiritual deliverance as well as a physical one. This prophecy seems to be so misunderstood that even today, some 2000 years later, many Jews are still angry at Jesus and feel that he abandoned them and Judaism. In fact, many are so upset at him they can hardly say his name. I think the Jews of the day knew Jesus was the Messiah but they were too full of their own pride and heritage to see the depths of their own sin and need for forgiveness and deliverance. So when he died on the cross their hopes of physical deliverance were shattered.

The Bible makes it plain. All people have sinned and in that sin are separated from God. We need salvation and deliverance from our sins and failures to live up to God’s expectations and purposes for our lives. When John called Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world he is telling us that Jesus was and is the means of our forgiveness and reconciliation with God. In the person of Jesus Christ we see this prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled and brought to fruition.

Though Jesus came to bring deliverance to the people of Israel and the nations esteemed him not and we despised him – yet willingly and intently he bore our sins for us. He carried the weight of them upon his body and took the to the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us “God made him who had no sin to be sin offering for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

God laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all. Imagine how hard this must have been – one who knew no sin bore the sins of the world on his body. What a burden to carry. But he carried them nonetheless and he will help us carry ours if we let him.

In preparing this sermon I found one person who wrote:

“Our sin was laid on Him as a heavy burden. The heaviest thing in the universe is sin. Neither angels nor men can stand under the load of sin—it sinks them lower than the lowest hell. When sin was laid upon the Son of God, He bore it, but He sweat as it were great drops of blood, and He was exceeding sorrowful even unto death. To have born up the WEIGHT of the world would have been nothing compared with bearing THE SIN of the world.”

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He not only bore our sins but he also took them away! 1 John 1:7 says the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. He took them away and washed us clean and made us new.

As the Lamb of God Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant who was led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin-offering.

As the Lamb of God Jesus fulfilled the role of the paschal or suffering lamb, whose blood saved Israel from the Egyptians (Exodus 12). Restate it: As the Lamb of God Jesus saved us from our sins that plague our lives.

Like the plagues that nearly destroyed Egypt and Israel altogether – the blood of the lamb saved us from our sins. This is another understanding of John’s statement about Jesus. It brings up images of the exodus from Egypt and the institution of Passover. Because Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go he brought on Egypt many devastating and painful plagues the nearly destroyed Egypt altogether. Even so, Pharaoh would not relent. So God said he would kill every firstborn son in Egypt from Pharaoh on down to the lowest servant. But God knew that Israel would need a covering to protect them from what was about to happen. Lets read briefly Exodus 12:5-13.

The blood of the Passover lamb protected the people of Israel from the plague that took all Egypt’s firstborn sons. In Jesus coming as the lamb of God he fulfills the role of the Passover Lamb in that his blood saves us from the effects of our sins before God and allows us to experience his mercy and forgiveness.

Here I want to note the Exodus nature of Jesus’ deliverance on the cross.

Whereas the first Exodus led Israel out of Egypt, the house of slavery, the house of bondage, the second exodus is a spiritual deliverance from the slavery and bondage to sin leading God’s people in to a new kind of freedom, a life of freedom from the power and effects of sin and its hold on the human heart. By Jesus coming into the world as the Lamb of God he finished what Moses was ultimately unable to do: lead Israel into true and lasting freedom. The completion of this second Exodus (or as some call it, a new Exodus) took place when Jesus gave his life on the cross and then three days later rose from the dead. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, delivered us from a different and more powerful kind of bondage – bondage to sin and its enslaving power over hearts and lives.

It is the shed blood of Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the dead that sets us free from sin and its control over hearts and lives. With this second exodus Jesus brought a different and altogether more important form of deliverance than what Israel had been expecting. He brought spiritual deliverance that as it said in Isaiah 53:5 brings us peace, peace in our hearts and if we apply it properly peace in our relationships with others.  This is the effect of the cross – it brings us peace vertically and horizontally, it brings peace with God and with others.

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! As the Lamb of God Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant who was led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin-offering (Isaiah 53:7, 10).

As the Lamb of God Jesus took away our sins on the cross and has delivered us from the power and hold of sin and death.

In so doing he also will fulfill the role of the victorious apocalyptic Lamb who in the end, will destroy evil in the world and firmly establish the Kingdom of God.

As the Lamb of God Jesus will fulfill the role of the victorious apocalyptic lamb who will destroy evil in the world (Rev 5-7; 17:14).

Through the cross and resurrection Jesus overcame the powers of sin and death in the world and set in process his efforts to overthrow evil and injustice.

In Revelation 5 we Jesus portrayed as the Lion of Judah who has conquered, then as a Lamb with seven horns who has won the right to open the scroll, and call forth the redeemed and bring them into the Kingdom. Here we see the Lamb who leads the flock of God, who delivers them from their foes and rules them in the Kingdom of God. These portrayals of Christ as Lion and as Lamb are not paradoxical but parallel, since seven horns signify immense strength – the Lamb is a powerful Ram!

But he is presented as a Lamb because he “stands as one that has been slain.” He stands for he is the Living one who died and is alive forever (Rev 1:18); and he was slain in sacrifice, specifically as God’s Passover Lamb, to bring about the new Exodus for the liberty and life of the kingdom of God.

He is the slain yet victorious Lamb whose blood ‘ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people’ (Rev. 5:6,9). What we are seeing here an apocalyptic representation of the Christ adapted to the Christian doctrine of redemption; the all-powerful Christ wins salvation for the world through his sacrificial death.

It is the exact opposite of what Israel expected of the Messiah. Whereas they expected a kingly ruler to come and overthrow Roman oppression through victorious battle – Jesus waged a different kind of battle through giving his life on the cross. This was the true victory that he accomplished for us. Through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead Jesus has delivered us from that which plagues us and will also protect us from the coming end-time plagues God will use to finally destroy the wicked and establish his kingdom rule. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God brought us spiritual deliverance through submission to death as the Passover Lamb and his resurrection from the dead and ascension to the Father in Heaven.

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! As the Lamb of God Jesus will fulfill the role of the victorious apocalyptic lamb who will destroy evil in the world (Rev 5-7; 17:14). He will protect us from the end-time judgment of the world and lead us into his eternal kingdom.

Will we follow? John the Baptist made this declaration about Jesus and then his disciples followed after Jesus.

Will we? Will we come after him and be his disciples following him as the Lamb of God, following him into a different way of living than what many often expect? Many want a victorious life free from any difficulty – but Jesus doesn’t lead us down that road. He calls us to a different way of living. He calls us a life centered on the cross and resurrection. Will we follow?

 

on the intertextuality of Philippians 2:14-18

if you are into this kind of stuff, which can be pretty interesting to see how it works, Gordon Fee says its “quite unlike anything else in the Pauline corpus” (241-242).  Here goes from Fee’s Philippians commentary in the NICNT set (a must have commentary):

The abrupt way is ministry is brought into the sentence, with it eschatological focus – also a recurring theme in the letter – is perhaps best explained on the basis of its most striking feature: the sudden and profuse influx of echos from the OT, which is quite unlike anything else in the Pauline corpus.   So unique is this that one scarcely knows what to make of it.  A maximal  view would see it as intentional intertextuality, with distinct language from a series of LXX text that recall the story of Israel from its origins, through the desert, to its eschatological hope.  A minimal view would see it as the outflow of a mind steeped in Scripture and Israel’s story as it has been regularly applied to the new people of God.

The data: It begins with v. 14 with Israel’s “murmuring” (Exod 16:12 et al.): the Philippians are urged not to do so.  The reason for the prohibition is first expressed in the words God spoke to Abraham at the renewal of the covenant in Gen 17:1; as with the father of the covenant, the Philippians are to “become blameless” before God.  This concern is then repeated in the language of Deut 32:5, where in the Song of Moses Israel is judged on account of its rebellion as “blameworthy children, a crooked and perverse generation” (LXX); but for the new covenant people of Philippi all of this is now reversed: by heeding to prohibition against “murmuring,” they become “God’s blameless children,” and the opposition in Philippi the “crooked and perverse generation.”

Finally, in Dan 12:3 Israel’s eschatological hope takes the form: “the wise shall shine as luminaries (phosteres),” with the parallel clause in the Hebrew (MT) adding, “and those who lead many to righteousness as the stars” (for which the LXX has, “those who hold strong to my words“); from the perspective of Paul’s “already/not yet” eschatological framework, the Philippians, as they live out their calling as God’s blameless children, already “shine as stars” as they “hold firm to the word of life.”

The eschatological context of Daniel in turn accounts for Paul’s concluding with a word about the “not yet” side of eschatological realities: the Philippians must persevere (now) in this kind of obedience or Paul will have no “boast” at the end; indeed, he will have “labored in vain” (yet another clause echoing OT language [esp Isa 65:23, “my chosen ones will not labor in vain“]).   Finally, in contrast to that, and now with no specific text in view, he images his ministry and suffering, and their faith and suffering, in terms of the levitical sacrifices (242). 

It’s breathtaking really.  I take the minimalist view on this: Paul was a person who lived and breathed the Old Testament story of God’s people and that this narrative merely reflects that reality.  Fee goes on to share:

But what to do with this phenomenon?  On the one hand,  both its uniqueness in the corpus and the sudden profusion of language not found elsewhere in Paul suggests something more intentional than otherwise; moreover, it seems to “work” too well to be mere chance or coincidence.  On the other hand, this might be just our discovery, with nothing intentional on Paul’s part at all; afterall, he is a man steeped in the story of Israel and is quick to see its application to the people of God newly constituted by Christ at the Spirit.

Perhaps there is a middle way, that this reflects something sermonic or some former teaching (and is thus intentional in that sense), of a kind that Paul can draw on at will, and weave into a single, meaningful sentence that specifies the kind of obedience his is calling them to, while at the same time placing the imparative within the larger biblical framework that assures the Philippians of their place in God’s story (242-243).

Perhaps it’s just me, but I read this some time ago and it has been amazing to me to think about and it comes back to me now and again.

good deal on the Prophetic books

at WTS Bookstore with one possible negative – it’s a 3 volumes in 1 deal – some may not like that but hey, it is on SALE at less than half the list price and half the price at Amazon!  What is it you ask??!!

It is a commentary edition on the Minor Prophets as edited by Thomas McComiskey that is both exegetical and expository!   So the possible negative is that being at some 1400 pages in one volume the middle margins may be too close and make it hard to read – BUT…. buying each of the volumes on an individual basis?  Much much more than the sale price offered through WTS which is a mere $28.00!!  It is normally $70!!  So what to do, what to do?  GET IT!! I mean with scholars like F.F. Bruce, Bruce Waltke, J. Alec Moyter, Jeff Niehaus, even a.. shhhh! a woman, Joyce Baldwin and Doug Stuart.  I mean how could you NOT get this deal?  I know it will probably lean a bit on the conservative reformed side, but come on man!

So, what is my suggestion?  DO IT!    😉

Isaiah 35:1-10 – Joy in Advent

Here is the sermon I did this weekend that I wanted to share with you all. Let me know what you think.

The Joy of Transformation: Isaiah 35:1-10

Intro:
Do you watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? In my opinion it is one of the better shows on TV because of the good things they do for people who are often in such destitute situations that without help they will not get out of it – in desperation they send in a video application to the show and hope and dream that maybe Ty and the gang will one day show up at their home – to build them a new one! What is the response? Spontaneous shouts of Joy! What is the response when folks see the new house? Shouts of Joy and gladness that bring tears of happiness! Sometimes people will stand in awe and then joy will rise out of them and they cannot contain their emotions and they shout and rejoice at the blessing they have received from Ty and the gang – many often attribute the blessing to God and rightfully so.

Well, in the passage we are going to look at today we will see future descriptions of the People of Israel and also the creation shouting for joy and rejoicing as the people return to the land after having been in exile for 70 years in Babylon – they got back to Israel to find their land destroyed and overgrown – yet in this passage in Isaiah following on the heels of a judgment passage there is a prophecy that in the midst of suffering and morning the Glory of the Lord will return to Zion and the people will see the deliverance of the Lord – the blind will see – the deaf will hear – the lame man shall leap – and the mute shall sing for joy! In addition, not only will the people shout for joy at the presence of the Lord – so too the creation will express joy at the redemption of Israel.

ISAIAH 35:1-10

1 The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus,

2 it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.

3 Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;

4 say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”

5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.

7 The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

8 And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness.
The unclean will not journey on it;
it will be for those who walk in that Way;
wicked fools will not go about on it.

9 No lion will be there,
nor will any ferocious beast get up on it;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,

10 and the ransomed of the LORD will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Exegetical Notes:

There are several Hebrew words in this passage for joy – they are synonyms yet they have slightly different nuances (though of course some overlap).

Joy is characteristic of the life of faith. It marks both the life of the community of faith and the life of the individual believer. Joy is a quality and not simply an emotion. Above all God is both the object and giver of our joy!

This first word gil, refers especially to joy before God and is associated with rejoicing. It has to do with a person’s expression of jubilation and joy because of what God has done on behalf of his people.

The next word is raan. Its basic meaning is to yell. On most occasions it describes an emotional and physical response to the presence and provision of God. So it often indicates a loud, enthusiastic, and joyful shout; So how this word is used (because it can mean yell) is determined by the context – in this case it is the joyful, enthusiastic shout in praise to God for his redemptive provision. Despite the root being related to yelling, there are over fifty occurrences, in the OT where it expresses happiness, joy, or relief, occurring in association with other vbs. that express a similar joyful emotion.

While there may be many reasons for joyful expression, by far the predominant object of the shout of joy in all its OT occurrences is God!

God evokes shouts of joy from his people because of his acts of redemption. In our passage we see that God will rescue his people from their dispersion among the nations, and they will respond with shouts of joy especially as they see the tremendous bounty of grain, wine, and oil that God will provide for them.

In the Bible, a multitude of voices shout for joy to God. Most often the ones who shout are God’s people. Prov 29:6 tells is it is only the righteous who can shout for joy; the wicked are unable because of their sin. In Isa 26:19, we see it described that the dead rise out of their dusty graves to “shout for joy” before the Lord. Job 38:7 describes the angels as shouting for joy at the sight of God creating the world.

In our passage in throughout the Psalms and Prophets, different parts of God’s inanimate creation also take part in the symphony of praise. In our passage it is the wilderness and dry land; In Isa 44:23; 49:13, the heavens give praise to God; the mountains do the same in Ps 98:8; as well as the trees in Ps 96:12; Tabor and Hermon [89:12 (13)]; and Lady Wisdom [Prov 1:20; 8:3]).

Finally, there is samach (also simcah). It signifies a spontaneous and vocal expression of joy rather than a restrained frame of mind. In verse 10 we see the redeemed of the Lord are overtaken by joy in being able to return to Zion and worship God! Sometimes we need to realize it is okay to shout to God in joyful exaltation to him for his miraculous provision in our lives! And that its is okay to be happy.

When samach occurs we often see the expressive nature of the word: for example in 1 Chron 15:16 and Ezra 3:12 it means to lift up one’s voice. In Gen 31:27, 2 Chron 23:18, and Ps 137:3 thee is singing. Ps 9 and 68 tell us to sing praise.

In such texts as Genesis 31, Deut 12; 1 Chron 29; in Esther and the Psalms 104:15 samach often serves as part of a festive celebration that entails eating and drinking and the playing of various instruments. Other expressive activities that occur along with samach are dancing which we see in 2 Sam 6:14-16, clapping the hands as in Isa 55:12 and Ezek 25:6, and stamping the feet (Ezek 25:6).

samach serves as the polar opposite for mourning (Ps 30:11 [12]) and gloom (Isa 24:11).

These words for joy also indicate a sense of future rejoicing. Both Jeremiah and Isaiah (as in our passage) affirm that the day when Yahweh restores Israel to her land inheritance will be a day of joyful shouting and gladness. Zech 8:19 draws attention to the abundant blessings awaiting Israel by making a contrast between the present days of fasting and future feast days. In this passage, the Lord will transform the fasts that commemorate dark days in Israel’s history into joyful days of feasting. Instead of mourning (as was the case with Israel during and following the exile), these days will be characterizes by joyfulness and festive celebration because of the redemption Yahweh will accomplish on Israel’s behalf. In fact, in Zeph 3:17 God himself will rejoice over his covenant people.

There is one other word I want us to look at in this passage. In our passage, in verse 10 we see that the ransomed of Yahweh who will return to Zion with singing will be overtaken, or overwhelmed by joy and gladness and, with the departure of sorrow and sighing, will experience uninterrupted happiness (Isa 35:10). In this case, the salvation of the Lord will be so great that the people of Israel will simply be overtaken by the joy of their newfound freedom and redemption. At the same time, this idea of overtaking could equally well be translated “they overtake gladness and joy,” in which case the meaning would be that the joy that had been previously eluding their grasp will now at last be caught and possessed. They have longed to walk in the joy of the Lord and in his redemption they have finally obtained it!

In this season of Advent there are plenty of reasons for allowing ourselves to be overtaken by joy and gladness.

The first is that Jesus Christ came into the world to usher in a new messianic age: At his birth there was joy because the people knew Jesus was the long promised messiah – when the angel announced to Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth would have a son – he noted there would be joy and gladness (Lk 1:14). In the magnificant Mary rejoices at the notion that she is to give birth to the Messiah (Lk 1:46) and then when Jesus is born there is much rejoicing (Lk 2:14). There was much Joy is in the hearts of the people because they knew God had finally come to live with and among his people.

The second is because Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14). Through his coming into the world we are now able to experience the future coming messianic age through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives. Jesus is Emmanuel “God with us”. Because God is with us – the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk; there is evidence of the Kingdom among us! When John was in prison and beginning to wonder if Jesus was really the Messiah – he sent his disciples to ask Jesus about this – he pointed to this text in Isaiah. In Matthew 11:4 and following Jesus does not point to political or militaristic evidence of the kingdom but rather spiritual and physical evidence through the various healings and miracles that had been performed. Joy is in our hearts because God has finally come to live with and among his people.

The third reason for joy in this season of advent is because we know Jesus will come again – and when he does even the creation will be full of gladness and joy and will rejoice at the restoration of creation and the coming messianic age (cf. Rom 8:18ff.). We call this an eschatological hope – a hope based on the future promises that God will finally bring all suffering, oppression and injustice to an end. Lets look again at Isaiah 35:2. It says one day we will they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. Here is a reference to shekinah glory of the Lord that will come down and rest upon Zion and the creation and as a result there will be no more blindness – deafness – lameness – the mute will sing with joy to the Lord for his saving power. It will be an awesome day!

Why is it hard for some to have joy in this season? Some have bad memories of Christmas’ past, some remember loved ones who have passed away – some get caught up in their own situations and have difficulty being joyful – how can we overcome this?

Focus on God and his love for you – when you dwell on your own circumstances we often lose joy – look outward to what God is doing and you will find new joy.

Let your heart be full of anticipation for the coming of Jesus. As out text notes in verse 4: “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come… he will come to save you.” Remember that despite the struggles we face, God has and is coming to save us! That should bring you plenty of joy in this Christmas Season.

Don’t celebrate the material aspects of Christmas but the spiritual aspects in the coming of Jesus into the world. His joy in us will be inner transformation and change in or hearts that will reflect his presence in us.

God’s presence in our hearts and lives and in the world brings transformation and a day is coming when that transformation will be completed in the permanent coming of God into the world!

In this season of Advent let your heart be filled with the joy that comes form knowing that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us – because a day is coming when God will throw down injustice and oppression and will fully and permanently (and physically) live among his people. Let your heart be full of hope and expectation that God will bring deliverance and healing to all.