O Come O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel
Who mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!
This now has to win my first place award among Christmas carols. For years the Church has sung and prayed this song without realizing what they were saying. The song was written in Latin in a monastery in the 9th century, translated into English in either 1851 or 1861 (I’ve read both dates). The song was born out of a Church that believed the Church had replaced Israel, thus not sung as a prayer or proclamation about the Jewish people. Even today much of the Church that sings these lyrics are not intending to be declaring anything about Israel.
But we know God’s plan, so let’s sing the song over and over as a prayer that the biblical prophecies will be fulfilled in our day, that Israel will return trembling to the Lord and His blessings in these last days (See Hosea 3:4-5), that their hearts will become open to their Messiah so that “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-26).
Yes, Christmas is still a grand time of the year. Why? Because our Messiah, our King, our Redeemer, and Savior is being heralded in the malls, on the radio and TV, and in special programs even in a largely secular society.
No, I do not believe Jesus was born at Christmas. I believe He was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, but that would mean that His conception was during this season, probably during Chanukah. And why would not God send His Son, even in the most minuscule form, into the world at the darkest time of the year?
Why do I believe Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles? Because Zechariah was serving in the Temple during the later part of the 4th month of the year (He was in the order of Abijah, who served in the 8th rotation out of 24) when he was told that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son whose name would be “John.” Six months later, Gabriel went to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus, thus the latter part of the 10th month. We would assume that Jesus was born nine months later, thus the latter half of the 19th month, or the latter half of the 7th month of the following year. The Feast of Tabernacles begins on the 15th day of the 7th month each year (I’m speaking of God’s calendar year which begins on the 1st day of Nisan (See Exodus 12:2).
So – let us rejoice! Let us worship the King during this season and in every season! He came to be among us, first in the womb of a young virgin girl from Nazareth. After His birth, He lived among us only 30+ years before He was executed as if He were a common criminal.
But praises forever to God! He is risen from the dead (a historical fact with many witnesses) and is now at the right hand of the Most High, awaiting the time when He will return as King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords.
For the Cross of Christ
As I was recently pondering the last hours in the life of Jesus, I was impressed that
His sweat drops of blood in the Garden were not because He feared death on the
cross. For that, He came into our world to face death. His words to the Father, “If it is
possible, let this cup pass from me,” had little to do with the physical agony of the
crucifixion, but His knowledge that He would be bear the weight of the sins of all the
generations since Adam, and all who are yet to come. Bear all sins. He had come into
our world to bear those sins, yet He also knew that the weight would be almost
unbearable. His hours in prayer were spent with the Father so that He would be able
to finish the work.
Recently I was reading Oswald Chambers’ November 20th, of “The Forgiveness of
God,” where he says that for us to be grateful for our forgiveness without attaching
it to the agony of Calvary is unconscious blasphemy. The only ground by which we
have forgiveness is that Jesus took our sins. Even going to hell with them, so that we
are freed from condemnation. By Jesus’ resurrection, He now can give us His
righteousness and His Spirit so that His nature can be reproduced within us.
As we celebrate these upcoming seasons in giving thanks, may we be deeply aware
of our sins that caused Jesus’ death, and express extreme gratitude for all that His
death and resurrection have produced and will produce in us.
Receive Jesus! Receive that forgiveness He worked for us! And walk gratefully in His
Many of you have heard me say, “I am an unrealistic optimist and I intend to stay that way.” That’s true because I am confident that ultimately for all believers in Jesus, the end is good. As I have also often said, “Following Jesus is exhilarating though often agonizing.”
Though I am not given to depression, several years ago I went through a season of awakening every morning “oppressed.” I had to fight my way into victory before I could function for the day.
I did everything I knew to get rid of this stranger in my life. I worshipped. I prayed. I bound. I pled the blood of Jesus. I read Scripture. I memorized Scripture. I confessed. But the depression remained. I went through deliverance to see if someone else could help me find victory. Nothing helped. I was functioning, but not with the same joy that I had come to know.
Late in the year, while attending a conference in another state, I awoke between two and three in the morning and immediately knew that the oppression/depression was gone. I sat up almost involuntarily and began to praise the Lord, and for the next weeks, remained in a kind of euphoria rich fellowship with Jesus.
Why did this happen? I don’t know. Was it so that I could partially sympathize with others who fight depression often? I still don’t know.
Why am I telling you this?
1. Because some of you are experiencing attacks that are unexplainable, and need the encouragement to endure.
2. So that both of us can be more gracious with others who are experiencing oppression.
3. So that we can yearn for and experience times of rich fellowship in the Presence of Jesus.
4. And to know that He is faithful, even when we do not feel His Presence!
Lately I have been appropriating a word out of Paul’s Ephesian letter (at least it’s the way Paul’s word is translated in my NIV). It’s the word, “Imagine,” in Ephesian 3:20. “To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power at work within us.”
I can hear Paul calling us to Godly imagination, and I have begun to do just that. The fruit of this integrating godly imagination has enhanced my prayer life.
The first place I turned to in my imagination was Hosea 3:4-5, where God tells Hosea that Israel would be without a king and a sacrifice for many days. Israel has not had a king since 586 B.C. when King Zedekiah was taken to Babylon. They have not had a sacrifice since the Temple was destroyed in 70 A. D.
Then God says, “Afterwards, the Israelites will return… they will come trembling to the LORD and his blessings in the last days.”
Imagine that! Imagine the time when “the Israelites,” all of them, the Haredim in Israel who pray repeatedly at the wall, the secular in Tel Aviv, all those in the Diaspora, Jewish atheists and agnostics, Jewish scientists and university professors, business men and women – all of them (Remember that Paul says in Romans 11 that “all Israel will be saved”) – will come trembling to the Lord and to His blessings.
Imagine all this happening in one night or one week or one month, when there are visions and angelic encounters and visitations from Yeshua Himself. Imagine families getting up some morning and beginning reluctantly to tell each other about their visitations during the night hours and how they have come to believe that Yeshua is indeed Israel’s Messiah. Imagine the astonishment on the faces of the other members of the family who have had similar visitations.
Imagine that when these families finally get up the courage to talk to their rabbi, only to hear that the same thing has been happening to him and his entire family, and that he believes he has been mistaken about Jesus – that he owes a massive apology to his flock.
Imagine that when he begins to tell his congregation, they all begin to smile and nudge each other, because they have all had similar experiences.
Imagine that the news begins to spread, that major newspapers, news media of every nation begin to report this amazing phenomena is happening among the Jewish people.
Imagine that this is so astonishing to all the countries, that others begin to come to the Jewish people to inquire of them, causing a great awakening in every nation, so that the Jewish people come into the fullness of their intended destiny to be a light to the nations.
And this is just one scripture! Imagine reading the whole Bible like this and pausing to imagine its fulfillment, praying for its fulfillment.
My prayers are getting weightier through all this.
Want to join me?
Bon voyage in the Spirit!
I am fascinated with the way the biblical scribes depict decisions being made by Israel’s kings. When I read, “and he inquired of the Lord,” I already know that I am about to read another victory. David is the best at continually inquiring of the Lord before battles or decisions (except of course in that most hideous moment when his lust overtook his decision-making faculties).
In Josiah’s day, the priest found a copy of the “book of the law” in the Temple and read about God’s laws that had been broken. Josiah tore his robes when he heard this and launched a revival in Judah: “’Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found,’ he told the prophetess. Josiah was one of Judah’s more righteous kings” (See 2 Kings 22).
Here’s another one. Most of us have heard of the unusual strategy Jehoshaphat received when he inquired of the Lord. The choir was to go in front of the army, giving praise to the Lord. A strange tactic, but it worked because God was in it (See 2 Chronicles 20).
The godly leader Joshua was almost always dependent on the Lord, constantly inquiring of the Lord, but there was that one time when the Gibeonites came in their tattered clothing and stale food, claiming to have come from a far country, when they were actually one of the enemy tribes who were to have been extinguished. Joshua 9:14 tells us, “The men of Israel tasted their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.” They were going by what they saw and were so sure these men were telling the truth.
So what does all this mean for us?
If you hear of something that seems so wonderful, be very careful. Do not dare make any decisions, until you have inquired of the Lord.
If you hear of something that does not appear to be all that good, pause, pray, and inquire of the Lord. It could be that God is calling you into His own – sometimes to us strange plans.
Oh, yes! Let us keep “inquiring of the Lord.”
Predestined to be like Jesus
What is the purpose of our lives? Is it to be happy? Is it to be healthy? Is it only to be saved from hell? No, there’s more. We are “predestined to become conformed to the image of” Jesus. To be holy as He is holy and to be used in this generation to complete His desires for this generation
If we will surrender every situation to Him, God will use it all, no matter how unpleasant, to form us more into His image. We will love as He loves, forgive like He forgives, listen and speak like He listened and spoke, see as He sees.
If we have had a Godly heritage, He will use it. If no one in our family ever knew the Lord or walked in the fullness of His Spirit, He will use that. If we have had a safe upbringing with parents who loved us and protected us, He will use that. If we have had a turbulent upbringing, have been abused and maligned and never encouraged by a mother or a father, He will use that.
He loves us. He knows us. He brings us closer to Him. Let us know the past is behind and walk forward to become all that He has intended for our us. In this day in age, it is a fight to raise the bar!
I bless and pray for your voyage on this awesome journey of becoming more like our awesome Redeemer! He is worthy of it all. Worthy of it all.