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Showing posts with the label #Advent

One who brings justice to the gentiles.

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Isaiah 42.1-4, Matthew 12.14-20.After Jesus cured the man with the paralyzed hand, this happened.Matthew 12.14-20 KWL14 Going out, the Pharisees took a meeting about this—so they could have Jesus destroyed.15 Jesus, who knew this, left there, and a great crowd followed him; he had cured them all.16Jesus had rebuked them, lest they reveal what he might do17 so that he might fulfill the word from the prophet Isaiah, saying,18“Look at my servant whom I chose, my beloved. My soul approves of him.I put my Spirit in him, and he’ll bring justice to the gentiles.19He won’t struggle or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.20He won’t split a broken reed, won’t extinguish smoking linen, till he can issue justice in victory.21Gentiles will put their hope in his name.”Is 42.1-4Since Matthew quotes Isaiah and says Jesus fulfilled it, Christians presume this particular part of Isaiah is a messianic prophecy; that it’s specifically about Jesus. I may as well translate it too, instea…

Our suffering servant.

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Isaiah 53.Mixed in with all the Messianic prophecies about a king who’d restore Israel, conquer the world, and set aright everything gone wrong, there are also prophecies about a suffering servant who’d get crushed.We Christians likewise recognize these prophecies to be about Jesus. But people only realized it after the fact. Before Jesus went through his suffering, Pharisees believed these prophecies can’t be about Messiah. He’s gonna conquer the world! It’s gonna be an easy victory, achieved through the Almighty’s power. Suffering and death? Has to be some other guy.Y’might recall as soon as Jesus brought up the very idea this suffering servant was him, his best student Simon Peter recoiled. “This will never happen to you,” was his rebuke. Mt 16.22 Human nature being what it is, we pick and choose the bible passages we like, skip the rest… and consequently miss most of the story. ’Cause the parts we avoid are frequently the really important parts. Jesus’s death saves the world just …

The Son who was given us.

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Isaiah 9.6-7.Isaiah ben Amoch (KJV “Amoz”) was a prophet all his life. His book contains prophecies spanning the 60-plus years of his ministry in the second half of the 700s BC. And it was during this time, in 722, that the Assyrian Empire conquered and scattered northern Israel.Isaiah lived in southern Israel, also called Judah or Judea. The Judeans worried greatly about the threat of Assyrian invasion. A number of Judeans were convinced the LORD would never let any dirty foreigners conquer their great land; after all, God’s temple was there, and he’d never let ’em destroy his temple. And a number recognized, same as Isaiah, their covenant with God dictated he’d totally let the land get taken if his people defied him. If you didn’t believe this, just look at what happened to northern Israel.But even when we think the End has come, that everything’s been destroyed and is over and done with, God knows better. He had Isaiah say this to all Israelis—both the defeated, discouraged norther…

Plucking Jesus’s beard. Or not.

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Isaiah 50.6.Jesus fulfills a lot of Old Testament scriptures, and this advent I wanna look at the ones he particularly fulfilled from Isaiah.Some of them explicitly refer to Jesus, ’cause a future Messiah, a savior, a suffering servant, a King of kings, is precisely who Isaiah was writing about. But some of ’em actually aren’t about Jesus. They’re either about humanity in general, Israelis in general, or even Isaiah himself. But because the same or similar events happened to Jesus, he fulfilled them. His experiences fleshes out these verses. That’s what fulfillment in the bible actually means: Not that Jesus did as predicted, but that Jesus reflects these ideas better, sometimes, than the original ideas.So today’s passage is one of those reflections. It’s not about Jesus; it’s explicitly about Isaiah himself. About how, as a prophet, he gets crapped on.Isaiah 50.4-9 KWL4 The LORD my Master gave me an educated tongue so I might know to say a timely word to the weary.He wakes me every m…

The TXAB Advent Calendar.

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The word advent comes from the Latin advenire/“come to [someplace].” Who’s coming to someplace? Jesus. Coming to earth. Either the first time around, around the year 7 BC, which is what we celebrate with Christmas; or the second time around, in the future, to take possession of his kingdom.Four Sundays before Christmas is Advent Sunday—the start of the advent season, the Christmas season, and the Christian year. And if you’re counting down from today, the text below will update automatically, through the power of Javascript. Here are the number of days till (or of) Christmas:Javascript isn’t working this Christmas!Many Evangelicals only know about advent from commercial advent calendars, which count down from 1 December instead of the ever-changing date of Advent Sunday. Each “day” on these calendars usually contain a treat; I prefer chocolate, and I know a growing number of alcoholics others who prefer wine. Manufacturers don’t wanna keep changing the product every year, so you’re ki…

Ascension: When Jesus got raptured.

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Forty days after Easter, Jesus left. For now.On Thursday, 15 May 33 (if we take Luke’s count of 40 days Ac 1.3 literally, and not as an estimate) this happened.Acts 1.6-9 KWL6 So when they came together, the apostles questioned Jesus:“Master, is it at this time you’re restoring the Kingdom of Israel?”7Jesus told them, “It’s not for you to know times or timing.That, the Father sets by his own free will.8But you’ll all get power: The Holy Spirit is coming upon you.You’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the world.”9 Saying this as they watched him, Jesus was raptured.A cloud concealed him from their eyes.Christians call this Jesus’s ascension, and celebrate it 40 days after Easter—and 10 days before Pentecost Sunday. ’Cause it’s when Jesus went up, or ascended, into heaven, to stand in service or sit in judgment, at the Father’s right. Ac 2.33, 7.55-56Various people who don’t believe Christians are getting raptured when Jesus returns love to point o…

Rachel weeping for her children.

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When a Babylonian king killed the children of one town… and when an Edomite king killed the children of another. Jeremiah 31.15-17.A pet peeve of mine is by Noël Regney and Shayne Baker’s historically inaccurate Christmas song “Do You Hear What I Hear?” In it, when Jesus gets born, a night wind tells a little lamb of the nativity. The lamb tells a shepherd boy, who then tells a mighty king, who then tells the people everywhere. In real life, the mighty king responded a bit more like this:Said the king to the soldiers at his gate:“Massacre the toddlers!Everyone below two years old:Massacre the toddlers!Slay all, slay all, leave my rivals deadPut your spears through this child's headPut your spears through this child's headNot at all heartwarming, but that’s Herod bar Antipater for ya.Matthew 2.16-18 KWL16 Then Herod, seeing he was made a fool of by the Zoroastrians, was enraged.Sending agents, he destroyed all the children in Bethlehem and the whole area around it,from two year…

Not allowed to rot.

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The apostles were pretty sure this one line in a psalm was fulfilled by Jesus. Psalm 16.10.Previously I referred to King David ben Jesse as “the prophet David.” Somebody actually tried to correct me for saying so. I remind you a prophet is someone who hears God and shares what he hears: By that metric David’s obviously a prophet. Considering all the Spirit-inspired psalms he wrote, David’s got more actual prophecy in the bible than Elijah and Elisha combined.Jesus recognized David as a prophet, Lk 20.41-44 and taught his students to do likewise. Ac 2.30 This is why the apostles had no problem using David for proof texts when they taught about Jesus. One verse they particularly liked to use was David’s line, lo-titténkhacídkha li-reótšakhát/“You don’t give [over] your beloved to see rottenness.” Or in better English, “You don’t allow your beloved to rot.” Ps 16.10 Both Simon Peter and Paul of Tarsus quoted it in Acts—Peter in chapter 2, Paul in 13.Acts 2.22-28 KWL22 “Men of Israel, lis…

The heir to David’s throne.

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Yeah, the prophecy’s about Solomon. But Jesus fulfills quite a lot of it. 2 Samuel 7.1-17.In the 11th century BC the tribes of Israel grew tired of being led by head priests and judges. The previous head priest, Eli, had let his corrupt sons run amok; the current judge, Samuel, likewise had easily-bribed sons unfit to assume their father’s job. Clearly there are some serious problems with hereditary leadership, but the Hebrews stupidly didn’t recognize this (and therefore request democratically elected leaders with fixed terms—not that we elect our best people either). The descendants of Israel demanded Samuel procure them a king. Nevermind the LORD God being their king; Is 33.22, 43.15 they wanted a human king, like all the other nations had. 1Sa 8.5 So Israel got a king.Kings suck, and Israel’s first two kings were typical rubbish. Like most politicians, Saul preferred pleasing the crowds to following God. His son Ishbaal was really just his uncle’s puppet. But the third king, the p…

Is there a prophecy of Jesus’s hometown?

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Not really. Matthew 2.23.From the third century BC onward, Judeans began to move to the land where northern Israel’s tribes used to live before the Assyrians deported them. Namely in the galíl/“circle” of northern gentile cities—or as 1 Maccabees called it, “the Galilee of the gentiles.” 1Mc 5.15 They wanted to reclaim that land for Israel.Nazareth was one of the towns they founded. So are all the other towns whose names you don’t find in the Old Testament. Likely Joseph and Mary’s grandparents were among the first settlers of that village. It wasn’t that old a settlement. Didn’t exist in Old Testament times. Wasn’t a town any prophet could point to, and say “That’s where Messiah is gonna grow up.” Though Micah dididentify Messiah’s birthplace.However, Christians are pretty sure one of the prophets did identify Jesus’s hometown, ’cause it says so in the bible!Matthew 2.22-23 KWL22 Hearing Archelaus Herod was made Judea’s king after his father Antipater Herod, Joseph feared to go there…

“Out of Egypt I called my Son.”

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The Lord called Israel out of Egypt… and 15 centuries later, called Jesus out of Egypt too. Hosea 11.1.When we fulfill scripture, we’re doing as it says. When Jesus says “Love one another,” Jn 13.34 and we do it, we’re fulfilling it.I know: When people usually talk about fulfillment, we assume it means someone’s doing as predicted. When Jesus fulfilled the scriptures, we assume this means the scriptures prophesied specifically about Jesus, and Jesus did as the prophesies foretold. Sometimes that’s absolutely true. But sometimes it’s really not, and this confuses Christians all the time.Confused me too, when I was a kid and first learned about taking the scriptures in context. Because I actually read the Old Testament, and read those passages in context… and wondered, “How on earth is that a prophecy about Jesus?” Well, turns out it wasn’t. The author wasn’t writing about Jesus at all. Nor was the Holy Spirit secretly dropping clues about stuff Jesus would eventually do.Yet Jesus did f…

The star coming out of Jacob.

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Christians list it among the verses predicting Jesus. It really doesn’t. Numbers 24.17.The Hebrews of the Exodus weren’t the only Hebrews in the middle east. There were other Hebrew nations, who probably spoke Hebrew same as the descendants of Israel whom Moses led. Namely:The ISHMAELITES, descended from Abraham’s oldest son Ishmael.The MIDIANITES, descended from Abraham’s sixth son Midian. (What, you didn’t know Abraham had more sons than just Isaac and Ishmael? Ge 25.1-2 Lots of people don’t. See what happens when you skip parts of the bible?)The MOABITES and AMMONITES, descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot.The EDOMITES, descended from Israel’s brother Esau.Plus Abraham’s son fourth son Yoqšan is the grandfather of “Ašurím and Letuším and Lehummím,” Ge 25.3 names which have a plural -im ending, which therefore means they’re not individuals but tribes.Israel’s family went to Egypt to dodge a famine, but Ishmael, Lot, Esau, Midian, and Yoqšan’s families had stayed in the area and become…

The prophet like Moses.

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Yeah, Moses meant any prophet. But this passage especially applies to Jesus. Deuteronomy 18.15-19.In the 15th century BC, God saved the Hebrews.Their ancestors had moved to Egypt to ride out a famine, and settled in a land called Goshen. (Which we nowadays call the Sinai Peninsula, even though Sinai’s actually on the other side of the Dead Sea, in Arabia. Ga 4.25 If the maps in your bible say otherwise, the mapmakers oughta actually read their bibles.) But some years later the Egyptians decided to press the Hebrews into slavery, and that was their situation when Moses was born… and 80 years later when the LORD sent Moses to lead ’em out of slavery. Ten plagues later, Moses led the Hebrews across the Dead Sea into Arabia, and the LORD drowned the Egyptian army behind them. And that is what Jews today celebrate every Passover.Moses tried to lead the Hebrews to a land the LORD originally promised to Abraham; they called it Canaan, Israelis call it Israel, Palestinians call it Palestine, …

Set your hearts for Jesus’s return.

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Before Jesus returns, there’s a whole lot of lawbreaking.Different scholars have different ways they wanna interpret the Greek word parusía/“[second] coming.” Most of the time “appearance” or “coming” or “return.” When used to describe what Jesus is up to, it has more of a sense of “arrival,” or even “invasion.” Certain gutless commentators leave it untranslated, and just refer to Jesus’s parousia, as if it’s too difficult a concept to convert into English. Rubbish: The popular idea of “second coming” works just fine to describe it, 1Th 3.13 so that’s how I translate it.Today I wanna point to Jesus’s brother James, and how he referred to it:James 5.7-8 KWL7 So be patient, fellow Christians, till the Master’s second coming.Look, the farmer awaits the land’s precious fruit,patient about it till they can get early- and late-season rain.8 Be patient yourselves as well. Strengthen your minds:The Master’s second coming has come near.So. Ever since Jesus’s rapture, Christians have expected h…

Apostasy before the second coming.

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Before Jesus returns, there’s a whole lot of lawbreaking.Before Jesus returns, bad stuff was predicted to happen. Both by Jesus, who described some of the events 40 years hence when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem; and here by Paul, Silas, and Timothy when they reminded the people of Thessaloniki that there’d first be a time of apostasy.2 Thessalonians 2.1-12 KWL1 We should ask you, fellow Christians, about the second coming of our Master, Christ Jesus,and how we’ll be gathered together with him.2It’s so your minds won’t be shaken up, nor go into a panic,whenever some spirit, message, or letter (like those from us) claims the Lord’s Day has come.3 Don’t let anyone trick you in any way: Nothing happens till the apostasy comes first,till the lawbreaking person, the child of destruction, is revealed—4 the antagonist, the one exalting himself over everything called “god” and “worshipful,”so much so he sits in God’s temple and claims he’s a god himself.5 Don’t you remember the things I told…

No, seriously: When’s Jesus returning? He’s taking forever!

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Because even in the first century, people grew tired of waiting.2 Peter 3.1-9I’ve been writing about the scriptures on Jesus’s second advent, or second coming. And of course I had to point out we don’t know when that’ll be. The events which were meant to come before his return, happened. There’s nothing left to hinder it—so it can happen at any time.This being the case, people want that day to be today. Right now. ’Cause they’re suffering, or ’cause current events are awful, or ’cause they’re in a hurry to live under Jesus’s direct rule. Either way, come Lord Jesus! But he hasn’t yet.And sometimes people give up hope of him ever returning. Which was the mindset Simon Peter had to deal with in his second letter.2 Peter 3.1-4 KWL1 Now this, beloved: I wrote you a second letter in which I awaken you to a purely-thought reminder—2 to remember the words the holy prophets and your apostles foretold,commands of our Master and Savior.3 Know this first: In the last days, mockers will come to m…

When is Jesus returning?

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He doesn’t say. Not that this stops us from guessing.Jesus is returning. But when?That’s the question every Christian asks, whether it’s in the front of the back of our minds. When’s Jesus coming back? Sooner rather than later, we hope—though considering the past 20 centuries, he’s taking an awfully long time to get round to it.What did Jesus himself have to say about it? Well, this. You’re not gonna like it.Mark 13.32-37 KWL32Nobody’s known about that day or the hour.Neither the heavenly angels, nor the Son. Just the Father.33Look. Stay awake. You don’t know when it’s time.34It’s like a person abroad, who left his home.He empowered his employees to do their jobs—and he ordered the doorman so he’d stay awake.35So stay awake! You don’t know when the master of the house returns.Evening? Midnight? Sunrise? Morning? 36 When he suddenly arrives, don’t let him find you asleep.37What I tell you, I tell everyone: Stay awake!”In short: “I dunno. And even if I knew, I’m not telling. You just ne…

The Son of Man’s returning. And everyone will see it.

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It’s gonna be really obvious he’s come back.When Jesus returns, it’s not gonna be a secret second coming. It’s not gonna be an event which only takes place metaphorically, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim; where they believe God’s kingdom began in 1914 but Jesus isn’t coming to earth till the final battle.It’s not gonna be a secret gnostic event, which only the chosen few know about. It’s not gonna be a secret rapture, where the Christians vanish and go to be with Jesus, and the rest of the planet has to wait seven years. It’s not secret. It’s nice and visible and obvious. As Jesus himself describes.Matthew 24.23-28 KWL23“Then when anyone might tell you, ‘Look! Here’s Messiah!’ or ‘He’s here!’ don’t believe it:24Fake messiahs and fake prophets will arise, and will give great signs and wonders to deceive you.If possible, to deceive God’s chosen people too.25Look, I’m forewarning you26so when people tell you, ‘Look, he’s in the wilderness!’ you don’t go out;‘Look, he’s in the inner ro…

Jesus describes his second coming.

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The first hint we get that he’s bodily coming to earth more than once.The first hint we have that Jesus is arranging a second coming—that he’s not taking possession of his kingdom during his first coming—appears in the Olivet Discourse, the bit in Mark 13, Matthew 24-25, and Luke 21, where Jesus answered his students’ question about a future disaster he’d just casually referred to. Mk 13.1-2, Mt 24.1-2, Lk 21.5-6In each gospel’s version of the discourse, Jesus brought up the persecution of his followers, a particular time of great suffering which’d take place in Jerusalem, and fake Messiahs and prophets who’d try to lead them astray. But afterwards, this:Mark 13.24-27 KWL24“But in those days after that suffering:‘The sun will be darkened and the moon won’t give its light.’Ek 32.725The stars will be falling from the skies; the heavenly powers will be shaken.26Then people will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ Da 7.13 with great power and glory.27Then he’ll send angels, and gath…

It’s 4 January. It’s still Christmas. And this fact annoys you.

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All the way back in 2016, my church decided it was time to begin our 21-day Daniel fast on the first Sunday of the month. Specifically this was Sunday, 3 January 2016. Welcome back from the holidays, folks; no doughnut for you.“Really not appropriate to schedule a fast for a feast day,” I pointed out to one of my fellow church attendees.SHE. “Feast day? This is a feast day?”ME. “It’s still Christmas.”SHE. “Christmas was two Fridays ago.”ME. “Christmas began two Fridays ago. And ends tomorrow. It lasts 12 days, remember?”SHE.What lasts 12 days?”ME. “Christmas. Remember the song? ‘On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…’ and each day the singer just kept getting more and more birds? ’Cause Christmas has 12 days.”SHE. “Who celebrates it for 12 days?”ME.I celebrate it for 12 days. I’m still eating cookies.”SHE. “Well, you can do that if you like. I took the tree down the day after Christmas.”ME. “You mean the second day of Christmas.”SHE. [irritated scoff]Tell many a C…