… according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. Luke 1:9
Remaining faithful, Zechariah (the Jewish priest who is without a child) keeps showing up for work. On this day he is serving as priest before God and something incredible – a once in a lifetime event – happens. He is chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. A holy honor. God is always working behind the scenes. The whole multitude of the people is outside praying. Zechariah is inside praying as well, perhaps sneaking in an often-repeated prayer for a child.
While lighting the incense, something comes into focus from the corner of his eye. An angel appears on the side of the altar. “Do not be afraid…your prayer has been heard…your wife Elizabeth will bear a son.” And not just any son. The angel goes on to say that many will rejoice at his birth. He will be great before the Lord. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. He will make ready for the Lord a people prepared. No ordinary child, indeed.
The prayers, the obedience, the faithfulness, the waiting. Elizabeth is with child. The one the last prophet, Malachi, 400 years earlier spoke of.
“Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord,” Elizabeth exclaims with a loud cry.
When God’s plan starts unfolding, you’ll understand why it took so long. Be patient and faithful. Your time is coming. Steep yourself in the Word so you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. The future may look different than you envision – it certainly did for Elizabeth – but God’s plan is perfect and beautiful, and you are a glorious part of it. Blessed is she/he who believes that there will be a fulfillment of what has been spoken by the Lord.
Question: Are you in a season of waiting? Think and pray about how God may be using his waiting time in your life for His purposes.
And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Luke 1:6-7
The waiting theme continues. Do you ever look around and wonder, “How long, God? When will it be my time?” Do you try your best and work hard, but still nothing seems to be happening for you? Maybe all around you are people who seem to be abundantly blessed with life falling into perfect place for them, while you wait. And wait. And wait.
The Israelites have been waiting 400 years with no words spoken through prophets at this point. Sometimes when we are in this time of waiting, we begin to lose our hope and certainty in God and His promises.
Luke begins with an introduction of two people who have been in a long season of waiting. A priest, Zechariah, and his wife, Elizabeth. They are both described as righteous before God. They are walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. BUT, they have no child. Despite many prayers, Elizabeth has been unable to have children. AND they are old; the time for having their own child has long passed.
“How long, God? Why have you forgotten us?” they might be thinking in their moments of weakness and heartbreak. “We are faithful. We do all that you have commanded. Everyone around us – even the evil ones – have children, while we have none. Why, oh Lord?” deep pain rooted from years of seemingly unanswered prayer.
But God is always faithful. God’s timing is much different than our timing. He sees a much wider view of the world than we do. Even though we can’t see all the pieces or the purpose for the waiting, know that He is always working behind the scenes as we will see in the unfolding of this story that becomes part of God’s perfect plan.
Questions: Do you ever look around and feel like things are happening for everyone but you? Is there something you are waiting for? How do you handle waiting?
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4
Luke opens his letter (the Gospel according to Luke) addressing the recipient, Theophilus. He describes that his purpose for writing is to create an “orderly account” so that Theophilus may have certainty concerning the things he has been taught.
Luke is a physician. He is intelligent and detailed. He writes this letter after many interviews and much research, as well as personal experience with the apostles. He writes this letter to provide assurance that what has been told about Jesus – the Messiah who came, died, and rose from the dead -- is true.
Faith is defined as having full confidence in what we cannot yet see. It plays a big part in our Christian beliefs, no doubt. There are so many things we will never know or understand until we get to heaven.
But did you know that we can also have certainty around many of the things we are taught? As we enter into the New Testament and the story of the Messiah – Jesus – who the entire Bible has been about and leading up to, there are many things that can give us assurance that what we are learning is true.
Sit back…soak it in…let your faith be sprinkled with assurances of God’s truth. The Messiah is coming…
Challenge: Spend time with God confessing some things that are hard for you to understand; questions you have. Ask Him to show you truth and provide assurances as you faithfully study His Word.
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers soap. Malachi 3:1-2
The Jewish people continue to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and temple. They are still oppressed, as they settle into their new normal. They still desperately wait for the promised Messiah and restored kingdom so many prophets spoke of. They long for the glory days of a strong, prosperous, free, powerful, and united kingdom. They are waiting for a king to lead them and save them.
The Old Testament ends with the prophet Malachi. At this point, the Israelites have been back in Jerusalem for some time now (about 100 years). They are at another spiritual low point. Lack of honor and respect. Giving God leftovers, rather than their first and best. Corrupt religious leaders. Unfaithfulness. Lack of tithing. Just going through the religious motions. The arrogant are blessed, while many are oppressed.
Malachi (speaking on behalf of God), like the prophets before him, is worried about the hearts of the Israelites and wants them to return to putting God first. He warns of God’s coming judgment. He tells of a messenger who is to come before the Messiah to prepare the way.
You can feel the tension mounting. Malachi ends with a warning and a promise that the great and awesome day of the Lord is coming.
Malachi…the last prophet.
Then 400 years of silence...
Challenge: Spend time recapping God’s story to us so far. Flip back through your notes, Bible, and devotionals. Think over the highs and lows, and what has brought God’s people to this point. Imagine their lives as they wait for so long without the Messiah coming and without hearing from God through any more prophets.
If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. Daniel 3:17-18
In obedience, Esther boldly approached the king. In obedience, Daniel refused to deny God and bow to the king. In obedience, Abraham brought Isaac up the mountain to be sacrificed, Moses demanded Pharaoh let the Israelites go, Rahab hid the Israelite spies, Ruth followed Naomi, Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal, Hosea married a prostitute, the prophets declared God’s judgment and redemptive promises. They didn’t know how it would all end for their lives personally, but they believed in God. They believed God.
God IS in the miracle business. If it is what is best for us and God’s kingdom, He will heal immediately with joy. But His plans are bigger than our plans. He knows and sees more than we do. He knows what is best, even if it is painful in the moment. He is after our healing in more ways than we know…it just might look different than we imagine.
Three of Daniel’s friends counted the cost and declared it worth it when, despite the penalty of death by fire, they refused to bow to the statue of the king, declaring God is ABLE to deliver them from the fiery furnace. But they didn’t end there. They continued saying they knew He COULD deliver them, BUT IF NOT – if in His sovereignty and all-knowing, all-seeing purpose, He didn’t save them from the fire – they still refused to deny Him and worship the golden image. They knew God was able to do anything, but they would follow Him even if It didn’t look like they thought it would. His glory was their reward.
God isn’t looking for a crowd of miracle-only seekers. He is looking for followers, disciples, fellow warriors. He is worthy of our following.
Questions: Will you follow God even if the current circumstances and future outcomes in this life look different than you hoped? Will you still be all in when facing the trials?
For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
The Jewish people are in exile for many generations. At last, they are permitted to go back home to Jerusalem. Zerubbabel returns and the temple is built. Ezra returns and the Law is again proclaimed. Nehemiah returns and the walls are rebuilt.
However, not all of the Jews returned. In fact, many decided to stay where they were. Through several generations, their exiled city had become their home. Esther takes place during this time. Esther is a Jew living in Persia. She is an orphan raised by her cousin, Mordecai, a God-fearing man. Esther catches the eye of the king and becomes the queen of Persia. Mordecai alerts her to a plot from within the castle to destroy the entire Jewish population. You see, the king doesn’t know that Esther is Jewish.
Mordecai encourages Esther to go to the king and do something or all her people, including him, will die. She is fearful though. Approaching the king without permission – even by the queen – could result in death, and the king had not called for her in some time. Mordecai tells her it is up to her, that perhaps she has been placed in this position “for such a time as this.”
Esther asks that everyone fast and pray for three days, herself included. At the end of three days, she bravely approaches the king. Through faith in God, prayer, and fasting, her actions ultimately saved the Jewish people from being annihilated.
Have you ever thought that maybe God has placed you exactly where you are for a specific purpose? It might be scary with uncertain outcomes, but if you trust Him and approach your calling, you could be part of an amazing miracle.
Challenge: Take an inventory of where God has you right now. What spheres of influence do you have? What skills are you working on? What circumstances do you find yourself in? Spend time praying about how God may be wanting to use you RIGHT where you are, for such a time as this.
So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. Daniel 6:23b
A new king emerges on the scene and Daniel (for the second time) is summoned to interpret dreams. With all of Daniel’s knowledge, he recognizes that it is limited and he needs to lean on the wisdom and understanding of God. Daniel always gives God the glory, acknowledging everything he knows and can do is only because it was given to him by God. He never tries to take the credit or seek glory for himself. In all of his ways, Daniel points to God.
Daniel is rewarded greatly by the king for his unique abilities to rightly know and interpret dreams. This may sound like a great thing for Daniel, but….
…the rest of the people in the king’s inner circle are raging with jealousy. They are on a mission to find a crack in Daniel’s character; anything to get him out of the picture for good, but they can find nothing. The only thing they know they can count on is how unwaveringly faithful to God Daniel is, so they seek to catch him there. What if the only thing people could find against us was our faithfulness to God?
The king’s men come up with a plan to have the king issue an ordinance that anyone who pays homage to a god other than the king should be thrown into the lion’s dens. They were certain Daniel would not cease praying to God. They were certain they had him!
As expected, Daniel stays firm in his faith, despite knowing the consequences. To the lion’s den he must go!
But it wasn’t Daniel’s time to die. God sends angels to close the mouths of the lions and protect Daniel. May we strive to be like Daniel, a faithful example of obedient living and trusting God in all things, from wisdom to protection.
Questions: Have you ever felt punished in some way by peers for staying firm in your faith? How hard is it to stay firm and do the right thing when you know there will be worldly consequences?
Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. Daniel 1:3-4
Daniel opens with Judah being defeated by the Babylonians. The last of the Israelites sovereignty as a nation gone. The city and even the Temple were plundered and the king’s family, along with the strongest, smartest, and best-looking Jews were exiled to Babylon. Daniel was among this group.
The Babylonian king had a plan. He wanted to reprogram these Jewish men and make them true Babylonians. He would give them the finest food and wine, new literature, a new language, a new value system, a new way to think and act. A three-year training program. The Jewish men would have a choice: remain God’s chosen people – obedient and set apart – or conform to the new culture they found themselves in.
Daniel draws boundary lines immediately. He refuses to defile himself and asks permission from the attending servant to abstain from the king’s food and wine. He wanted a meager meal of vegetables and water.
At the end of their three-year training program, all the men were brought before the king. None were found to be a match for Daniel (and his three friends who joined him in establishing boundaries) in terms of appearance, wisdom, and understanding. God had given them all they needed for the position they found themselves in before the king.
Like Daniel, culture is trying hard to influence us as well. We are bombarded with enticing messages and tempted with choices that are contrary to God’s Word. It’s a slippery slope and we too need to learn to draw cultural boundary lines.
Questions: Why do you think it was important for Daniel to draw the line immediately as to what he was willing to do? Are there lines you need to draw in the cultural surroundings you find yourself in?
For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3
Do you ever look around and feel like the people doing evil acts continue to get away with it, even often seem to prosper? And to make it worse, the genuinely sweet, faithful people tend to have so many heartaches?
The prophet Habakkuk was in this boat. He throws out a series of complaints to God….
Why do I continue to cry out for help with no answer?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Why does justice not seem to be prevailing?
Why if you are so loving are you letting this happen?
The pagan Babylonians are thriving, and Judah’s sins seem to be going unpunished. Habakkuk doesn’t get it. “Why?” he asks God.
God responds instructing Habakkuk to write down the revelation that will come at the appointed time. God is never blind to what is going on. God is never unjust. Though justice seems to be lingering, a time will certainly come where all will be judged and made right.
God is patiently waiting for the right time; for His perfect plan to unfold. We can have confidence in this too, even when our current situation seems to be in a state of chaos. And If God has given you a vision, know that It awaits its appointed time, but it too WILL come to pass. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.
Questions: Do you ever feel like Habakkuk, witnessing the evil get away with things while the good suffer? Do you have a vision from God that doesn’t seem to be happening in the manner and timing you think it should?
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jeremiah 31:31-33
Like Isaiah, Jeremiah contains many prophecies that are fulfilled in Jesus. Some of them include the Messiah being born a king and descendant of David (Jesus is from the line of David and was honored as a king even at His birth by the wise men who came), the Messiah being part of a murderous plot with the slaughter of children (Herod kills all male babies in his attempt to kill Jesus when he hears of Jesus’ birth), and the above passage about the Messiah bringing in a new covenant. A better covenant. A covenant etched on our hearts instead of stone tablets.
Jeremiah also says these words, written in the context of future restoration, “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” (Jeremiah 29:10-12)
God already knew the plans He had for the Israelites; He knows the plans He has for us…and they are good…full of a promising future and hope.
Questions: Do you believe God has good plans in store for you? Are there things you are doing now that you just know in your heart are from God?
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah 1:5
Jeremiah, a prophet in Judah, the Southern Kingdom, is often referred to as the weeping prophet. Bible commentator Carl Medearis says, “All through the great prophet’s life, we see him weeping before God and on behalf of his people—weeping for the people, on behalf of God. He warns Judah of impending doom if the people will not repent of their rampant idolatry. He pleads with God to spare his people. He weeps because no one will listen. He weeps because he’s often all alone. And in the end, no one listens, and the people of Judah and Benjamin are sent into exile in Babylon.”
Jeremiah is desperate for the people to turn from their wicked ways. He is desperate for the promised restoration of God’s people. So much so that he is brought to tears.
Can you relate to Jeremiah? You knew something to be true; something that could really help someone and change their life, but they JUST. WON’T. LISTEN.
Imagine someone you love being diagnosed with a terminal disease that you know the cure for. You know exactly what they need to do to get rid of the disease and live a long, healthy life. But they won’t listen. They just continue doing the same stuff that is keeping them sick and on a path that will lead to death. You passionately plead, you diligently provide evidence, you try different tactics to get their attention, and still, they refuse to listen.
This is how it is with God, and with Jeremiah here. He knows the thing that will save them, but the people won’t listen. It is such a deep burden within him that he can’t help but lose it in a pool of tears.
God, help us to not be too prideful, stubborn, and stuck in our ways that we can’t hear and accept the plan that will save us.
Questions: Have you ever been in a situation where you knew what could help someone, but they wouldn’t listen? How did you respond?
They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. Hosea 14:7
Like the faithfulness of Hosea to take his wife back and continue to love her even through her unfaithfulness, God is willing and eager to take us back and restore our relationship with Him when we go astray.
Through many different people, and in many different ways, God is trying to get the attention of His people. He is slow to anger, patient, and quick to forgive, but we bear some responsibility to ask for forgiveness and come to Him.
Hosea tells of the beautiful restoration that is possible when we repent of our sins and seek Him. He wants to take care of us and watch us bloom, abundantly sharing the unique gifts and purposes He created us for.
Hosea is the last prophet of the Northern Kingdom prior to their defeat and capture at the hands of the Assyrians. Most of the people were deported to Assyria, no longer part of a free sovereign nation.
Even when it looks dismal to us, God is always working His plans and purposes. God was so patient with them giving them so many warnings under different kings and prophets and methods. Restoration will come, but this is a season of consequences for the people of the Northern Kingdom. The Messiah is still part of the plan. But for now, the people wait in exile.
The Bible is God’s message to us today. Like the Israelites, we need to take His word seriously. He is patient with us, but a final judgment day will ultimately come. Will we be found faithful?
Challenge: As believers, we often long for Jesus to come back and make everything right again, but we should be thankful that God is patient and waiting. Many people have yet to believe in Him. Who can you pray for today to know Jesus before He returns? What can you do today to reach out to them?
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6
The life of a prophet wasn’t an easy one as they spoke God’s truth and lived out His messages. Hosea can definitely vouch for this fact. God tells him to marry an unfaithful prostitute. Hosea knows she will betray his trust and break his heart, but he obeys God and marries Gomer. Hosea’s life becomes a metaphor for the relationship between God and the Israelites who, like Hosea’s wife, cheat, wander, seek worldly possessions, and rebel.
God wants the people to see how they are being spiritually unfaithful to Him; how they quickly turn their backs on God, chasing the pleasures of the world around them. Over and over again.
Even Hosea and Gomer’s three children, named by God, are part of the story…God will Punish, No Mercy, and Not My Children. The offspring of a broken relationship.
The Israelite people are going through the motions of following God – sacrifices, celebrations, rote prayers – but their heart is not in it. They check these things off their “religious” list and then going about their day following the false gods and idols of the culture around them. They have lost their love for God…the thing He desires most.
But through the faithfulness of Hosea to Gomer, despite her wandering and unfaithfulness, God wants them to see that He loves them so much and desires them to come back to Him. He will not abandon them, though they abandon Him. He keeps going after them. He desires to take care of them and live in a beautiful relationship with them if they will just come home.
Question: What do you think about how God is using the prophets and His people to tell His story?
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
Other prophets followed in both the northern and southern kingdoms. Their words carried warnings, but also beautiful promises of restoration if the people chose to turn from their disobedience and follow God.
Amos emphasizes justice. Obadiah provides assurance that the deeds done against Israel will not go unpunished. Micah demonstrates the extent of the punishment God will unleash on those who fail to repent, but his words are also full of encouragement and hope in the beautiful things God has in store for those who follow His ways.
Through Micah, God tells us following His ways looks like doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with Him.
DO JUSTICE… To live with a strong sense of what is right and wrong and seek to help those who are wronged. To protect the innocent and the disenfranchised.
LOVE KINDNESS… Not just begrudgingly or dutifully showing kindness to others, but to LOVE kindness. To love being kind.
WALK HUMBLY… C.S. Lewis says, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” Our walk should elevate others and God.
Jesus came as the perfect embodiment of justice, kindness, and humility. A just God cannot look away from sin. God the Father – full of kindness, grace, and mercy – sent God the Son in flesh to take the wrath and pay for sin. Jesus humbled Himself by coming from heaven to earth. He humbled Himself by stepping outside of cultural norms and showing kindness to the poor, sinners, sick, and outcasts. He humbled Himself as He washed His disciples’ feet at the last supper. He humbled Himself by dying on the cross for nothing He did wrong, but instead to make us free forever.
Questions: Which is easiest for you to live out (justice, kindness, humility)? Which is the hardest?
…Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7
Is it well with your soul? On a scale of 1 to 10 (1= never and 10=always) how often do you truly feel at peace?
Peace is something we all want but is often so hard to get. Both externally in a world filled with conflict, war, violence, lack of unity, political and cultural tension…and internally in our soul and daily lives.
Separation from God causes peace to elude us. Disunity, loneliness, unrepentant sin, anxiety, and fear are things that keep peace at bay. The world is lacking internal and external peace, despite incredible advancements, new technology, more communication methods, secular counselors, and self-help books flying off the shelves. We look for peace in all the wrong places.
When the birth of Jesus is announced by the angel to the shepherds, these words are proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13-13) Until Jesus’s final kingdom is established, the earth will not be a peaceful place. However, peace is available to those with whom He is pleased. And God is pleased with believers who put their hope in the work of Jesus. We can experience this peace, both here on earth and forever in heaven.
Think about Jesus’s life on earth. Though misunderstood, shunned, and persecuted, Jesus was at peace. He knew He was always doing God’s will. He was always on mission. He was confident in His purpose and He always took time to abide in His Father. The Prince of Peace modeled peace and offers peace to those who put their hope in Him.
Questions: What keeps peace at a distance and so hard to obtain? Where/when do you feel the least/most at peace?
Additional prophecies of Isaiah fulfilled in Jesus are included below.
…Everlasting Father… Isaiah 9:6
How many things can you count on with certainty? Are there any things or people that are unwaveringly consistent, that never change, that will be there for all time?
The Messiah – Jesus -- is called Everlasting Father.
Everlasting in terms of TIME. He was here from the beginning and He will be here for eternity. And everlasting in terms of UNCHANGING. He is consistent with no variation in character.
His name is also Father. We are His sons and daughters. We are part of the family. A special bond and blessing. AND, heirs to His kingdom.
Some of us may have a fabulous father of our own. Others may have a father who wasn’t around or wasn’t very loving. But God is the perfect Father. It’s who He is and we are loved by Him.
We have a Father who, despite our mistakes and even our outright sin, loves us. A Father who pursues us and eagerly desires for us to come to Him.
Yes, He even sometimes disciplines us as a good father should, but only – and always -- because He loves us and He knows what is best for us.
We have an Everlasting Father…always there, always has been…protector and provider…unlimited forgiveness…unwavering love…waiting to celebrate with us for eternity.
Challenge: YouTube or Spotify Chris Tomlin’s “Good Good Father” song. Meditate on what it means to have God as our good and everlasting Father.
…Mighty God… Isaiah 9:6
Here in Isaiah’s prophesy we again see the deity of Jesus, the promised Messiah. He was no ordinary human born to man. He was the Son of God. But He also was and is God.
Who or what comes to mind when you hear “mighty”?
One definition of MIGHTY is, “possessing great and impressive power or strength.” Not only is Jesus the Wonderful Counselor, but he is also powerful and mighty enough to do what He says He will do.
This word might is also used in military settings…a warrior word. Jesus can and will defeat Satan. Jesus fights for us!
Look at what some of God’s might can do…
Speak the world into existence
Calm the wind and sea
Bring order out of chaos
He can do incredible things, and He can also CHANGE US on the inside. He has the power to work in us and change our fear into fierceness, our pain into purpose, our doubt into doing, and so much more.
He not only saves us, but He makes us new and whole and useful for His kingdom. Something only a Mighty God could do.
Question: Can you think of any other mighty things Jesus can do?
…Wonderful Counselor…Isaiah 9:6
Who do you look to for counsel/advice? Your parents, your best friends, your pastor?
While they might be good listeners and even have great advice, they are human and not all-knowing. Who we go to for counsel matters a lot!
A counselor is an adviser. Someone who knows what they are talking about. A veteran and expert who you can trust to give you sound advice. Someone who can say, Keep your eyes on me. I know what will happen, so follow me. Watch me; do what I do.
This Messiah, prophesied about in Isaiah and fulfilled in Jesus, would be a wonderful counselor.
Wonderful. We use this word a lot, so it loses the impact of its meaning. It is not just super great; it is FULL of WONDER. It is astonishment. It is incomprehensible.
In Jesus, we have the perfect, full-of-wonder counselor. He was born in the flesh and knows what we are going through and what it is like to be tempted and to suffer. But He is also God. He is the one who IS ALL and KNOWS ALL. The one who was there at the beginning of time and has seen it all. The one who can never lead us down the wrong path. The one who always shines the light for us to find our way out of any situation. The one who is full of love and compassion and truth.
We need to get in the habit of going FIRST to the Wonderful Counselor. When things are hard, scary, painful, uncertain, confusing, we need to get on our knees and spend quality time in prayer and conversation with Jesus. We need to open our Bibles and let God’s Word and truth speak to us. And we need to do this before we go to our friends, post on social media, or seek other counsel. Family and friends are so valuable, but we need to recognize who the wonderful counselor is in our lives.
Question: What can you do to remember to make daily appointments with your Wonderful Counselor, Jesus?
Isaiah prophesied what the Messiah would be called based on His various roles. Later an angel appeared to declare the name and identity of Jesus before His birth. The Bible is full of names for us too…descriptions of who we are when we put our faith and trust in Jesus!
Before we continue with Isaiah’s famous prophecy about Jesus, let’s look at OUR identity and some of the ways God sees ALL of us who are His…
You are created in God’s image and likeness – Genesis 1:27
You are fearfully & wonderfully made – Psalm 139:14
You are more than a conqueror – Romans 8:37
You are no longer a slave to sin – Romans 6:6
You are a child of God – John 1:12
You are not condemned – Romans 8:1
You can never be separated from God’s love – Romans 8:38-39
You are chosen to bear fruit that lasts – John 15:16
You are one with Christ – 1 Corinthians 6:17
You are chosen, holy, royal – 1 Peter 2:9
You are a new creation – 2 Corinthians 5:17
You are a friend of God – John 15:15
You are redeemed and forgiven – Ephesians 1:7
You have Christ living in you – Galatians 2:20
You are God’s handiwork – Ephesians 2:10
You are created for good works – Ephesians 2:10
You are a temple – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
You are light – Ephesians 5:8
Your citizenship is in Heaven – Philippians 3:20
You have been given power, love, and self-control – 2 Timothy 1:7
You are created with purpose – Jeremiah 29:11
Questions: What do you think of God thinking of you in these ways? Which is your favorite? Which is the hardest for you to grasp?
His name shall be called… Isaiah 9:6
How did you get your name? Did your parents like the sound of it? Are you named after a family member, friend, favorite character?
Names are personal and special, but they were even more significant in the Jewish culture, and they matter to God. He knows us all by name.
Sometimes in the Bible, God changes people’s names to reflect their new identity or purpose. When Jacob wrestles with God, his name is changed to Israel, meaning “God contended; wrestled with God; Triumphant with God” (Genesis 32:22-32). When we get to the New Testament, we’ll see Jesus change one of His disciple’s name from Simon to Peter, meaning “rock” (John 1:42, Matthew 16:13-19).
The name that was given to the infant Jesus was also very significant and part of prophecy being fulfilled. An angel appears to Joseph and instructs him what to name this child to be born…
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” Matthew 1:21-23
Jesus’ name tells us who He was and would be…GOD WITH US.
This prophecy in Isaiah tells us some other names that will describe the Messiah...what His identity will be…what He will be to those who believe in Him and live under His rule in His kingdom: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Questions: How did you get your name? Do a quick Google search to see the meaning of your name. Does it fit you? If you could name yourself anything based on its meaning, what would it be?
… and the government shall be upon His shoulders… Isaiah 9:6
You don’t have to spend much time following the news to realize the opinion of government today isn’t the greatest. Here’s the problem: we often desperately look to government to solve the problems of the day. People look at the government as the only thing big enough and powerful enough to help them. But we can see in one historical account after another that government run by humans is generally a mess. No human government will ever truly bring about peace and justice and righteousness.
Things weren’t much different in Isaiah’s day when he spoke this prophecy. The government at the time Isaiah was prophesying was messy and often oppressive and unjust. Things haven’t changed much since then. While no earthly government can make all things right, the Kingdom of God can.
This prophesied Messiah will be a King with a Kingdom. The government shall be upon His shoulders.
Here’s a little sneak peek into what is to come. Do you know what Jesus says when He begins His ministry?
He says, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
With the birth of the Messiah, a new kind of kingdom will be ushered in. We are part of it on this side of Jesus coming, but even now it is only a taste of the fullness of it. In God’s great story to us, He tells us how it will all end through a Revelation given to the apostle John. The Kingdom of God is at hand, but we wait for its ultimate rule when Jesus defeats Satan and death once and for all.
Questions: When you think about Jesus, do you think of Him as a king? Is He the king over your life? What do you think when you hear the “kingdom of God?”
… to us a Son is given…Isaiah 9:6
Not only is the Messiah to come as a child who will be born, but He is also a Son. And not any ordinary Son…God’s Son.
To us, a Son is given. To us (you, me, the world), a Son (God’s Son in human flesh, born as a baby) is given.
Sin is a big deal and God is a just God…sins must be punished and paid for. The only way to have sins forgiven and be right with God was through the blood of an innocent sacrifice; a firstborn male without blemish. Unending sacrifices for unending sin.
Though God is just and requires payment for sin, He is also full of grace and mercy. He delays His wrath and then sends a substitute to take it from us for us. The person who was to be the Messiah and Savior of the world had to meet all the requirements of holiness to be a perfect and acceptable sacrifice for our sins. The one Isaiah is prophesying about will be the only one worthy to fulfill the requirement to be pure, holy, and without blemish.
Jesus’s divinity (being God Himself) made Him uniquely qualified as an unblemished and perfect sacrifice. His humanity (being born a human) allowed Him to shed blood as our sacrifice. This combination gave Him the power and ability to save us.
The Messiah needed to be fully human so that He could die, but He also needed to be fully God so that we may live.
Questions: Have you ever thought about why Jesus had to be fully God and fully human? Why do you think this combination was necessary?
For unto us a child is born… Isaiah 9:6
Isaiah is looking forward to a day when a special child – a Savior -- will be born.
Unto us and for us.
The fact that the Messiah would come as a child and be BORN is significant. He could have come as an angel, or suddenly appear as a fully developed great man, or as some sort of symbolic creature. But this isn’t how God sent in His rescue plan. The Messiah will come to earth as all of us come to earth, in human flesh as a baby. He will know fully what we go through and experience as humans from birth to death. He will experience growing and learning and temptation, pain, joy, loss, celebration, and suffering.
It is all part of God’s plan, and from where we sit now, we know this baby was Jesus. This line from Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah shows his humanity. He will come as a human to die as a human.
As we continue to see God’s rescue plan unfold, we will see that He could not come save mankind as God alone, it also had to be as a man. He came as one of us to take our sins and make us righteous to stand again before a holy God.
Yes, Jesus had to be God and without sin (we’ll look more at that in the next line of the verse), but the humanity part mattered too. The true King of king and Lord of lords came as a baby.
How incredible that one who came to save us from our sins and from eternal destruction came as a tiny, messy, helpless, totally dependent baby?!?
Questions: How does this change what you think about why Jesus came as one of us? What do you think is the significance of Him coming as a baby?
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
You have probably heard this passage before…likely around Christmas time. It is one of the most often cited prophesies about Jesus. In this one single verse, the prophet Isaiah provides a glimpse into so many characteristics of Jesus who would be born roughly 750 years after this was written.
Israel was in a state of destruction and turmoil. Isaiah (a prophet in the Southern Kingdom) was offering hope of what was to come. Some good news for a weary people.
Gospel actually means Good News. There are four Gospel books in the New Testament that tell of Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection – the Good News of our salvation by grace through faith in the work of Jesus. Isaiah is sometimes referred to as the 5th Gospel because it contains so many descriptions of Jesus as our Savior.
We are going to break this one verse apart and dig into each description and how it could only be fulfilled by Jesus. This prophecy from God through the lips of Isaiah is one of God’s many clues to His people – to us – about who Jesus is.
Speaking of prophecies, did you know that there are over 300 descriptions/prophecies in the Old Testament about the Messiah that were fulfilled by Jesus?
Challenge: Lee Strobel, a journalist and former atheist, set out to disprove Christianity, but in the process, he became a believer. He wrote a best-selling book called A Case for Christ. Take a few minutes (just under 6 minutes) to watch a video where Lee Strobel talks about some of the messianic prophecies being fulfilled through Jesus’ life & death.
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. Jonah 3:10
Jonah was a reluctant prophet in the Southern Kingdom. He heard God’s call to deliver a message but ran the other way. He tried to hide, but it was no use. God had a plan for Him, and as we are beginning to see, God isn’t deterred. God wanted to use Jonah to speak a message to the people in Nineveh, an enemy Assyrian nation.
While Jonah was hiding out in a boat, God caused a great storm to erupt. Thrown overboard by the crew to appease God, Jonah finds himself inside a whale. For three days. Obeying God at the onset would have been a much easier path!
Jonah finally obeys God and goes to Nineveh to warn the people of God’s judgment and the city’s impending destruction. To his surprise, the people actually listen and repent. God delighted in Jonah going to this enemy nation and bringing about their salvation. It is a picture of God’s desire for ALL people to be saved.
Jesus links his life to Jonah when the religious leaders ask Him for a sign. Jesus says the only sign they will see is the sign of Jonah – pointing to this story (Matthew 12:40). As Jonah is in the belly of a fish for three days and three nights, Jesus too will be three days and three nights in the earth prior to His resurrection.
However, where Jonah is frightened and disobedient, Jesus is neither. Jesus uses Jonah as a picture for the people of His great mission…to die for us and to be raised from the dead after three days.
Questions: Have you ever felt God nudge you to do something? Maybe serve in some way, speak a kind word to someone, send a text or note of encouragement, warn a friend of the potential consequences of an unwise decision they are considering? Are you quick to obey and follow through, or do you generally try to hide from it like Jonah?