O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save, and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear, but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
Just before he speaks of the coming stem/rod of Jesse, Isaiah tells of God’s coming wrath toward the Assyrians and all those who “enact evil statutes,” “record unjust decisions,” “deprive the needy of justice, and “rob the poor of [their] rights.” (Isaiah 10:1-2) On the heels of this vengeance, one might expect the rod of Jesse to be depicted as a warrior in the spirit of David, or as a glorious king in the spirit of Solomon.
Instead, the stem of Jesse comes in the Spirit of the LORD, and His character is one of wisdom, understanding, counsel, and righteous judgement. God, Himself, has laid out a plan for vengeance on the oppressor. Now He speaks to the core need of His people – because cries for vengeance really come from the unfulfilled need for justice.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could deal if all we ever read about in scripture were perfectly holy people, never doing wrong, and shining through the ages as beacons of irreproachable righteousness.
I cannot adequately express how much that would suck.
So I am thankful that, for every example of faith, the Bible also keeps record of the mistakes, the sins, the doubts, the “bad-life-decisions”, and the utter failures that remind us God’s historical cast was broken, inadequate, temperamental, imperfect and, well, human.
And Abraham is no exception. Father of nations or no, Abraham pulled some really stupid stuff in his time. Like when he passed his wife, Sarah, off as his sister. Or when he tried to take control of God’s plan and slept with his servant to produce an heir. Or when he abandoned that servant and her newborn child to his wife’s jealousy. Or when he passed his wife, Sarah, off as his sister…again.
Really, Abraham? Not cool.
It is encouraging, then, when we get to Hebrews and find that even a life as flawed as Abraham’s can be marked by faith: Continue reading →
By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Hebrews 11:8 [NASB]
One of the things I love about opening the Word is that I am never quite certain where it is going to take me. Take this week for example: I sat down to look at Abraham’s mentions in Hebrews thinking that I would probably need to look at his faith in two parts – Abraham’s life of faith in a strange land (v. 8-10) and Abraham’s faith in God’s promises (v. 17-19). As I dug in, however, I realized that there was a lot being said in verse 8 alone, things that needed to stand on their own, things that I needed to hear.
So now, we’ll be looking at Abraham’s faith in three parts. And we start with his first steps, when he was still Abram: Continue reading →
These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. And Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japeth. Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. Then God said to Noah; “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. And this is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks. And behold I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife and your son’s wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind shall come to you to keep them alive. And as for you, take for yourself some of all food which is edible, and gather it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you and for them.” Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.
Genesis 6:9-22 [NASB]
Can you imagine Noah’s thoughts as God gave His instructions? Whether or not it had ever actually rained, nobody had ever seen that much rain. Never had a boat (or any structure probably) been built to such scale as God set forth. What was Noah thinking? “How can I possibly build something that big?” “All the animals? Really?” “Why me?” “Why my family?” “This is impossible.” “People are going to think I am crazy.” and maybe “Holy cow! God’s talking to me!” Continue reading →
By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.
Hebrews 11:4 [NASB]
Have you ever read the story of Cain and Abel and wondered where, exactly, Cain went wrong? I mean, here we have Cain bringing an offering to God of his own accord and God flat out denies him. So far as we know, Cain didn’t know anything about requirements – Leviticus and the Law were generations away. But God says “no” and we are left with “why?” Continue reading →
At least that is what they say. And by “they,” I mean “we.” And by “we,” I mean “me.”
I know I have said it. You know you have, too.
I want you to do something with me, at least as a mental exercise: Take out a piece of paper. Write that saying down nice and big. Underline it. Highlight it. Circle the key words.
Now crumple it up and throw it away.
For too long we have accepted the usage of this idiom as some sort of balm, a way to foster positive thinking. As believers, this phrase should have no place in our lexicon. It is empty encouragement that is – at best – limited and short sighted, and – at worst – downright unbiblical. Continue reading →