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A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
PROSPEROUS AND RUINOUS PROGRESS
How Wise is the
Word of the Lord even to the Witless
and How Precious to the Saved
for it stands forever, comes in its own way and day, and
simple fulfils itself
Tidings from Luke Chs. 1-2
Progress ? What is it ? A movement in any straight line where you have more of anything than you did before ? such as in cancer-based wastage, or ruinous profligacy ? Certainly a disease may be said to progress! but not prosper if it does...
The world is progressing without Christ, but not prospering. Some live richer than ever, in millions, some die in vast numbers, aching in anguish, listless in starvation, fraught with disease, and that gets worse. It is not ultimately an economic matter, or a medical or a political, though all of these results of sin for the whole race, are finding their mark progressively!
The cause of pain, suffering and evil is sin, iniquity and disbelief, sundering into squalor the spirituality which could have been, the help, the holiness and the deliverance, the pardon and the peace, the empowerment and the provision.
Such is the them written for Israel, in Isaiah, but it is applicable to one and to all, whether
1) Gentiles who have never come to
the Lord, to His Christ, to His pardon and to His will,
or 2) the Jew of today, who does not yet believe;
and it is penned in words poignant with pity, ample with power, allowing no redress but repentance.
These the Gentile world would do well to hear (Romans 11:19-22).
Hear then Isaiah 48:17ff., which comes immediately after the trinitarian announcement of the sending of the Christ from His haven in heaven to this potential hell on earth (Isaiah 48:16), which currently begins to bid fair to be a fitting prelude for many.
For the best awareness of the SPIRITUAL site, let us hear indeed from the commencement of Isaiah 48, leaving the special part of our interest to be written in red for ready recognition. Short clarification, for those not accustomed to Isaiah will be given at each point that demands it, in black, the text being in blue.
EXCURSION INTO THE PAST IN ORDER TO PLACE THE PRESENT
"Hear this, O house of Jacob,
Who are called by the name of Israel,
And have come forth from the wellsprings of Judah;
Who swear by the name of the Lord,
And make mention of the God of Israel,
But not in truth or in righteousness;
2For they call themselves after the holy city,
And lean on the God of Israel;
The Lord of hosts is His name:
Here God shows He is repelled by frank hypocrisy, a blight using His name (as many in our nation do, in vain, whether in oaths, or casual swearing or simple insincerity, as if religious when in fact merely self-willed), instead of belief. Thus He contrasts the MENTION with the REALITY when it comes to His name. It is not spoken in TRUTH or in RIGHTEOUSNESS, for many in the nation, a mere fuss of words for this or that purpose, whether religious or other. Such was common then, and is common now, not only in this land, but in many lands; for Europe has wandered, Britain has moved with her, the USA is co-operating now with Islam as earlier with Communism, in World War II in its latter phases, highlighting one of the greatest mass murderers of all time, Stalin. Now sexual squalor is being legalised and Sodom may yet have something to learn.
3"I have declared the former things from the beginning;
They went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to hear it.
Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.
4Because I knew that you were obstinate,
And your neck was an iron sinew,
And your brow bronze,
5Even from the beginning I have declared it to you;
Before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you,
Lest you should say, ‘My idol has done them,
And my carved image and my molded image
Have commanded them.’
God characterises the nation, as alas He might perhaps similarly, with some others now, declaring that despite a magnificent past epoch of growing close to God and gaining access and help, gaining the knowledge of His word, will and way, they have become God-avoiders.
Their neck is not merely stiff, but in its resistance to being TOLD, is like an iron sinew, while the opacity of their minds to real revelation such as has been tested from the first and verified to the last, is like bronze, as if metal replaced the neurons.
So obvious was this spiritual recalcitrance, that God suddenly declared things (or in our case left them like light-houses for millenia), and then brought them to pass, in order to avoid that devious sinuosity of fraud by which mankind so often seeks both to distance the obvious and embrace slithery substitutes for truth, as if they were lost brothers. So in our day the restoration of Israel to its land, as great a miracle as any outside the incarnation and its results, in the midst of malevolent hearts, militant millions and evilly disposed wealth, the hostility of the United Nations and the distancing of any help from this world in 1948, was but step one. This miracle was followed by Israel's triumphs of 1967 and 1973, by which it did three things.
Firstly, it became a nation IN ITS PLACE, secondly it regained Jerusalem, first half and then all, as specified in Zechariah 12 and 14, prior to the mass national conversion noted to come in Zech. 12:10, and thirdly it made itself like a mighty mouse, overcoming a resistance so far greater than its tiny state and irregular beginnings would suggest, that it became agent in one of the most major and most startling events in history, even LIFE magazine putting out a special issue on the 1967 case, which one was fortunate enough to pick up in the USA.
But reality becomes to the dissident like a dream, and those who have long been exposed in conditions of marvellous liberty, even for example in the USA case, having a Statue to it, to all these things, first the word of God and then its witness in our own time, millenia after it was written, with all the fulfilments in Christ in the middle: what do they then do ? Many such, indeed apparently it is a matter of milling millions, simply go off the rails, and bog down in the desert winds which threaten that and many another country.
Whoever thought you could forsake the Lord and get away with it; a bank robber is in far better case, doing it at noon, in a Cadillac, driving in leisurely style away with the booty in full view.
6"You have heard;
See all this.
And will you not declare it?
I have made you hear new things from this time,
Even hidden things, and you did not know them.
7They are created now and not from the beginning;
And before this day you have not heard them,
Lest you should say, ‘Of course I knew them.’
8Surely you did not hear,
Surely you did not know;
Surely from long ago your ear was not opened.
For I knew that you would deal very treacherously,
And were called a transgressor from the womb.
Here the Lord emphasises the point, and shows 'new things' such as we have seen in our own time with Israel's amazing restoration after some 19 centuries on the one hand, and the war-famine-flood-earthquake, waves-roaring syndrome foretold for the day of our decline to the ultimate apostasy as a world, and specifically for the Gentiles in their own domain (Luke 21, and cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 5, SMR Ch. 8).
It was not just things of old. It is for all time, what is written, what is smitten, what is enabled and what in repentance is restored. It does not alter. The Gospel of grace is given its fulfilment and its central Figure, the Messiah, and He pays at the appointed date (Highway of Holiness Ch. 4); but this is fulfilment of the mercy of the Lord who does not change, and His purity and presence is still available, and it is as always only by grace (Psalm 32), that He acquits, and since sin, by sacrificial judgment (Hebrews 9 cf. Barbs... 17 and TMR Ch. 3).
As to Israel and its 20th century triumphs, there has been no opportunity to pretend it was all known by mere worldly knowledge or earthly wisdom; for ALL signals were adverse, and yet not a victory but a triumph, yes a series of triumphant marvels occurred as God replaced Israel in its land (cf. SMR Appendix A). Yet the UN persists in its myths about the Palestinian situation which, because of no relevant help from the many, milling, wealthy nations about them, sharing their basic religion, is indeed severe; but this is so, only by contrivance.
Indeed, Jordan offered citizenship to them and it was abused, led to civil war, and is not now so open! Such was the inveterate hatred of Israel that Jordan, this large section of Palestine, stolen from the Jews, in terms of the League of Nations' gift, is no longer available. How short is the memory of this world! Apart from that, how many have money and land in abundance; but the desire is not the mere deliverance of the Palestinian, but their use as a bomb, sometimes literally, with which to blast and perhaps destroy, Israel. So does the world dream its evil dreams.
Thus the Palestinian are left to their situation, dispossessed, convenient raw material for hatred and gouging out the other eye of Israel, grabbing yet more than the 2/3 of Palestine taken. What then ? For many of them, having sought to overthrow Israel when it was invaded, but protected as promised by God, instead of seeking, as some of them have done, peace with Israel and a place in its nation, what is the lien chosen ? Instead, they seek continually to overthrow Israel, and then wonder why there is so little place for them with the Jewish race, which like other nations, has a place which it has possessed for millenia.
If indeed, God as He promised in Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 32, has dispossessed Israel often enough, yet He has as also promised, brought them back; and this endeavour to obliterate them, voiced in the providence of God, most openly by the Iranian President, as it has been often enough in other Islamic sources, whether directly or indirectly (not least the pan-Islamic Conference in Iran in 1991), what is
it ? it is merely a racial intolerance. Which of them is not permitted to have a place as a race ? and which is a 'catastrophe', the common Islamic phrase for the restoration of Israel, that needs elimination, if not by Hitler, then by the UN by 'peaceable' means, which would destroy its defensibility, and make it merely an international protectorate! (as in the 1947 proposal of the UN).
Which of the other nations craves such 'mercy' as this!
That is one phase of the rejected realities of God's performance precisely as foretold. That noted for the Gentile in its own peculiar syndrome, above, is another.
Thus the Gentile world, even where it might be expected to have learned something from millenia of opportunity, is as guilty as Israel, or at least is following the same model of an iron neck, in the set paradigm of obstinate unbelief. It is now about to be shown up still further by the hand of God on the real estate which He did not have to buy, since in His case, HE MADE IT! (cf. Galloping Events Ch. 4).
This last point is taken up in the ensuing text relative to Israel, but it applies to this world in a more generic sense. As to man, as to the earth, GOD MADE all, and to ignore this is as unwise as is any child ignoring its parent. It is just in this case, that the 'parenthood' is absolute, and is applicable all, the ground, the air, the stars, the race, the will, the spirit of man, as created and responsible to God, whether responsive or not! As to the USE of that liberty in man, not to love but to indulge in inveterate hatred, vicious vengeance and unenlightened pretences and pretensions alike, that is for himself to answer!
9"For My name’s sake I will defer My anger,
And for My praise I will restrain it from you,
So that I do not cut you off.
10Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
11For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it;
For how should My name be profaned?
And I will not give My glory to another.
12"Listen to Me, O Jacob,
And Israel, My called:
I am He, I am the First,
I am also the Last.
13Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth,
And My right hand has stretched out the heavens;
When I call to them,
They stand up together.
14"All of you, assemble yourselves, and hear!
Who among them has declared these things?
The Lord loves him;
He shall do His pleasure on Babylon,
And His arm shall be against the Chaldeans.
15I, even I, have spoken;
Yes, I have called him,
I have brought him, and his way will prosper.
Isaiah is not speaking only of distant things, past and future, but of nearer ones, to his own day as we see here. Let us think as if at their time for a moment.
The fact is, as he indicates from the Lord in Isaiah 13, that they are going to be overcome and overrun by Babylon (relatively near, for Isaiah!), and they are going to be required to live in exile for a period (later specified by Jeremiah in Ch. 25, as 70 years, a term used by Daniel in Daniel 9 to specify the time from then till the death of Christ, which was of course, like all else, duly fulfilled - Highway of Holiness Ch. 4).
There is the situation for the Jew contemporary to Isaiah, as he stretches forth the coming history of the nation. What would next be the problem ? It would be this.
The tendency to STAY in Babylon as increasingly 'successful' exiles, hard-working, and though aliens, finding it 'convenient' (as many find it convenient today, to remain in churches, even ones which openly attack the Bible by advocating or at least permitting same sex copulation, even for pastors), is met by a stern rebuke.
GET OUT! That is the prophetic word here!
Babylon itself is to get what is coming to it (and of course 'Babylon' in the book of Revelation is used symbolically to represent the ultimate in apostate substitution for spirituality, and this in a specialised sense as the segment of that total apostasy which will be most prominent as the end of the Gospel age comes - an age also predicted by Isaiah in Isaiah 49-55, 60-61 cf. SMR pp. 946ff., 729ff.). That from Revelation, is fast coming in our own day, but let us return to the environment of the prophet Isaiah for those of his own day and that then coming.
That collapse of Babylon, seemingly impregnable, was to come just as Isaiah 13:17 foretold; and in Jeremiah 50-51 you see something of the eminence of the catastrophe then to follow for Babylon, just as will occur in our own contemporary version of 'Babylon' (as in Revelation 17-18). Babylon had been allowed to ruin Israel, as simply and often enough foretold; but it was not for that reason to escape judgment itself (cf. Jeremiah 51:33-34). GET OUT OF HER! he tells the Jewish exile, while the coast is clear (as it was to be made by Cyrus, himself named though over a century off), just as he tells our generation concerning its symbolic counterpart, the apostasy (Revelation 18:4). The thing is neither spiritual, godly or salubrious, and unwise is he, foolish is she who remains in THAT sort of thing!
Isaiah 51:22-23 speaks of God's taking from Israel's hand, the cup of devastation, and putting it into the hand of the one who afflicted here, this Babylon, the one who said,
"Bow down, that we may go over; and you have laid your body to the ground, and like the street, to those who went over!"
Micah 4:11-12, in what begins as his millenial chapter, says something similar, like this:
"Now also many nations are gathered against you, that say, Let her be defiled and let our eye look upon Zion. But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord, neither do they understand His counsel; for He will gather them as a the sheaves into the floor."
The so ostensibly delightful facility to have whatever you wish, be you man or woman or race or culture or political system, intoxicates; but it does not change reality.
Man can have liberty only because God has given him spirit and wisdom to think, see, comprehend, observe, consider and meditate, rebel or be realistic, respond in heart or move like a heartless monster, a wire-brained prodigy of blindness (cf. SMR pp. 348ff.). It is used, it is abused; and in the end, unless mercy (as with Nineveh in the day of Jonah) is invoked where it MAY be found (Isaiah 55), which is where it is, which is in the Lord according to His never-varying, long foretold and over the past two millenia, long fulfilled Gospel, then there are results.
What are these ? It is that judgment then becomes more sure than is melanoma in the heart, for its result.
God accordingly indicates the one to be used in defeating Babylon, citing the Medes, as in Daniel Ch. 8, Medes and Persians, and in Isaiah 44-45, specialises in revealing the nature of, and indeed the name of the king to do the job (Cyrus, whose 'Cyrus Cylinder' is one of the marvels of archeology, verifying the work of this king in ALSO allowing free return to the Jews, after the conquest of Babylon, as in Isaiah 44:26ff., including 45:13).
He, the then coming ruler, Cyrus, will do this "not for price nor reward", a truly amazing work of a victorious potentate, this time, representing the land which overthrew the great Babylon, the Median-Persian Empire, itself releasing Israel from its thrall. It beat Babylon, and told the Jews they could go.
But would it WANT to be released, or would it linger in the exile no longer required, even after the due date as foretold by Jeremiah, for its termination? Thus God here prophetically exhorts them NOT to remain in Babylon, as one must exhort our generation, in application of the word of God (here as in Romans 16:17 for example, and indeed in I Corinthians 5-6), NOT to remain where the word or morals of the Bible are circumvented or disregarded, indeed, not applied!
16"Come near to Me, hear this:
I have not spoken in secret from the beginning;
From the time that it was, I was there.
And now the Lord God and His Spirit
Have sent Me."
Here the Lord makes so simply one of the most beautiful statements of all time. It is now clear that the Lord is capable of acting simultaneously in more than one Person, indeed in three, for HE God, who indubitably is here speaking and has been speaking for some time.
Here, He indicates that HE will be SENT by the Lord God and His Spirit. In Hebrews we learn that this Christ is the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person (Hebrews 1), as also that He is GOD Himself as in Psalm 45. It is scarcely surprising, for us each one of whom can lecture 'himself' or 'herself', and rove in spirit over great terrains of thought or history, that the Creator has a more exalted facility even than this, though one perhaps similar except for its wonder and grandeur. HE EXISTS as three, one in Being, and three in Persons, co-operative and eternal.
Hence He can visit as HIMSELF and act in His own name as the Messiah, as foretold, the Saviour, although there is ONLY ONE SAVIOUR (Isaiah 43:10-11). It is God who acts in His own plenary being. It is He who sends and it is He who comes, as in John 3:16, incarnate as in Psalm 45 and Zechariah 12:10.
It is He who is GOD and there is NO OTHER, indeed God insists in Isaiah 43-45, in this and that mode of emphasis that there IS NO OTHER. It is then the Lord, though the Lord is but ONE (Ephesians 4:4), who comes, and it is He who saves, and the Saviour born in the city of David, foretold in Isaiah 53, is thus God, the strings of whose sandals John the Baptist is indeed unworthy to loose!
Thus the Spirit of God descended in bodily form like a dove on Christ at His baptism, and the Father voiced His intense approval at the same time (Matthew 3:13-17), and baptism for Christians is carried in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not the names ... (Matthew 28:19). It is useless to trying to remake God because of a preference, and this represents one of the most futilely arrogant and functionally vain efforts of sinning mankind.
Thus do we learn of the Messiah, the Son of God as in Isaiah 7 and Luke 1, coming to earth with full divine status, and find why it is that it is the "mighty God" and "everlasting Father" which can figure in His name (as in the prophecy of the Christ in Isaiah 9:6 cf. Bible Translations 20 ). Thus it is not there, that the Son can BE the Father, as if both Prince of Peace and Everlasting Father, but that the name as clearly announced, of the PRINCE, to whose kingdom Isaiah there refers as eternal, is not to be separated from that of the Father (as in John 14:9), because HE is ONE with Him (John 10:30), in Being, though distinguishable in PERSON. There is not a bifurcation of the speaker but a differentiation, followed by an elevation. You see precisely this in Philippians 2. There are two ways in which you can act to eliminate God, one being to crucify Him when He comes (thus simply fulfilling the schema of salvation as predicted, but adding guilt for the assassins, legal or otherwise), and the other to remake Him in your mind, so that it is not God who is dead, but you, worshipping in futility the thing that springs to the imagination.
Either way, the darkness resulting is intense, or 'gross' as Isaiah declares.
Accordingly, as in Psalm 102:15-22), there is cited from that ancient day, a SET TIME when the Lord will present Himself in glory in this world, when He looks down as more particularly shown in Isaiah 7,9,49-53, and acts for man. He has long sought mankind, and as to the day of Moses, Christ was the Rock who followed them (I Corinthians 10). That set time is now long past, all but two millenia gone, and the day of judgment does not linger.
It is HE with whom one must deal, the Word, the express image, the exact and total expression of God who has long sought for man, and in the end, came to earth when the set time (as noted in Daniel 9) came. The poignancy of it all does not start with His coming, but was seen in Isaiah 49-55, for example, just as the essence of the rejection and the need for salvation is so keenly shown in Hosea 13:14 for example, where God understands personally to pay for sin.
Here, in Isaiah 48 as we pursue it, we see still the Lord, to come as Christ, God in this, His supervisory and pitiful role set forth, before that time.
17"Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
The Holy One of Israel:
'I am the Lord your God,
Who teaches you to profit,
Who leads you by the way you should go.
18Oh, that you had heeded My commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
19Your descendants also would have been like the sand,
And the offspring of your body like the grains of sand;
His name would not have been cut off
Nor destroyed from before Me.' "
The sheer pity of Israel's plight (it is not different now, despite the many divine deliverances shown to them even in this author's life-time) weighs in the tenderhearted lovingkindness of the Lord who is to come (and now has come). This is what is shown here in Isaiah 48:17-18.
OH that you had listened! Is it not much the same now in the Gentile as well as in the Jewish national field! They in their millions do not LISTEN to pity, do not attend to mercy, and ignoring the obvious, facilitate their own ruin by adverse forces in the very face of grace, wedded to blight.
20"Go forth from Babylon!
Flee from the Chaldeans!
With a voice of singing,
Declare, proclaim this,
Utter it to the end of the earth;
Say, 'The Lord has redeemed
His servant Jacob!'
21And they did not thirst
When He led them through the deserts;
He caused the waters to flow from the rock for them;
He also split the rock, and the waters gushed out.
22 " 'There is no peace,' says the Lord, 'for the wicked.' "
Here comes the final cry to SEPARATE from the godless guile and gross gracelessness which dares to defy and even defame deity, USING HIS name to present THEIR OWN ideas, in stark and rebellious resistance to His will, gulling the people and destroying their hope! Here with it comes the annunciation of the anti-mercy result, NO PEACE!
REVERSION TO THE PRESENT IN ORDER TO COMPREHEND IT
The cause of progress in pain,
suffering and evil, such as the world eagerly demonstrates, like some unfeeling
child, is progress in rejection of redemption, the devil working with passionate
enthusiasm to enfeeble man by feeble ideas and ideals, like humanism,
evolutionism, socialism, and militant communism, Romanism, Mohammedanism.
In this, there is a mouthing great words of folly, as Peter predicted would be the state of the propaganda art in the last days (II Peter 2:1, 10,18). It is precisely as with ancient Israel, for those who have had long exposure to the things of God; and for the rest, it is merely the Gentile presentation of the Gospel which Isaiah exhibited in his own day, for Jew and for Gentile alike (Isaiah 49:6, 42:6), a thing foretold from the Psalms as well, often enough (Psalm 22:27, 102:22, 66-67). There is none exempted, none excuse.
On the other hand, there is none irrelevant, none who may not come (John 6:37).
Indeed Paul explains it in terms of the famous olive tree, Israel's heritage from which it is hacked off because of unbelief, to which it is to return in faith in due course, and into which Gentile Christians are 'grafted'.
The Gentiles meanwhile are warned
not to become big-headed, since the Jew went from the tree, cut off, but
rather to reflect that lack of faith aborted the Jew, and will do precisely the
same for the Gentile who imagines something concerning himself and the Lord, but
not by FAITH. One disease, identical in kind, can slay either Jew or Gentile,
and this is the message of Paul.
As to the Jew, for him in vast numbers, his destiny is to return to the Lord (Romans 11:25ff., Zechariah 12:10ff., Ezekiel 36-37). THEN even the Jewish returnee not only to the land assigned by the Lord, but to the Lord who assigned the land (two phases are clear in Ezekiel 37, one after the other), will be sprinkled with water (Ezekiel 36:25). This is a clear indication that blood being now in abeyance in view of the crucifixion of Christ (foretold in such horror in Isaiah 52-53 and Psalm 22 for example, with its results specified in Isaiah 66:3), there is no more circumcision or sacrifice such as went with it (cf. Luke 2, and Mary's sacrifice, before the sacrificial death of Christ, when He was but a babe on this earth). Not blood as in Exodus 24 and Hebrews 9, in the 'many baptisms' noted in 9:10, but the cleansing symbol of water is now to be used, as indeed it is used and has been used these millenia in the entry rite to the realm of Christ, baptism.
What then of the Gentiles ?
Trusting in ideas, in wealth or dollars, in medical provisions or social ones, in themselves and their self-esteem, or their psychological routines - such as a nine year old now publishes! man becomes like flotsam and jetsam, cast about by many currents, going nowhere.
Nowhere ? nowhere that matters. It is to the garbage that the gush of fallen man's destiny proceeds, like a stream of hot lava moving down into an appalling abyss.
THAT ? it is ruinous progress, progress in wars like sores on the body of the race.
Yet there is another progress which this day brings to our attention.
It is prosperous progress.
For this, we consult the report of Luke in the first two chapters, to consider the birth of Christ and its surrounds, with emphasis on the PRELUDE, the POWER, the PROCEDURE, the PROXIMITY, the PRINCIPLE, the PERMANENCE, the POOR, the PROGRESSION, the PAIN, the PENETRATION and the PLACEMENT OF PANOPLY.
I THE PROGRESS IN LUKE 1 - PRELUDE to PERFORMANCE
We notice first Luke 1:5, the prelude in John the Baptist, who was to provide a messenger's voice in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3), to which in turn large crowds many would go, instead of using the contemporary I-pods of our society.
Here in the wilderness of Israel was a living witness to One to come who would baptise with fire and the Holy Spirit. Form would be progressing into the felicity of finality. God Himself would dwell in man direct, beyond all priestly ministrations, and God Himself would dwell among mankind as ONE of them (Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:1-3). Such was the portent of John the Baptist in his scriptural place.
Thus there would be POWER (Luke 1:35 - that of the supernatural God), and indeed a kingdom which would never end, being PERMANENT (Luke 1:33). The PROCEDURE was that of deity instilling creation in the womb of a woman so that the Eternal God came to be IN FLESH (Luke 1:35). The PRINCIPLE was clear, at the human level, as Mary put it: "Let it be to me according to your word!"
Again, the angelic perspective confirms this, with the word from the Lord declaring: "Blessed is she who believed; for there will be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord."
FAITH and PERFORMANCE then, are intimate friends. Why grumble if you do not first use faith therefore! It is not PEER formance, being formed in the manner of your peers; it is performance, things done in thye perfect purity of the power of the Lord, things done when what ? It is when by faith one is waiting in obedient spirit on the Lord, when you wait thus on the Lord, your Saviour (Luke 1:47), when your receptacle is ready for them.
In Luke 1:46ff., the Magnificat, in which Mary shows the grandeur and greatness of God, she marvels with great joy that He chose someone for this splendid task, not of being the 'mother of God' as some blasphemously put it, but being a mother in Israel who would be a transit station for His coming as a man. And what is it at which she marvels, at which rejoices, in what element of the choice ? It is then what ? Why it is that the one chosen is of the POOR, in this the Lord disregarding the rich (1:48), and it is to the lowly to whom His great deeds are granted here. It is not where He is disregarded in apparent human strength, and He is not choosing the mighty but the meek. This is in line with the normalcy in the choice of Christians, many, but not all being as Paul describes in I Corinthians 1:27ff.)!
II THE PROGRESS in 2:1-34
Now, the child born, and his circumcision rite having come hear, we find there is a sacrifice required to go with it. Hence, as Christ is THE sacrificial offering to end all such, it is apparent that circumcision would have to go after He had borne the pain, and penetrated to perfection with His vicarious death and gift.
What would then happen? Why there would now be a PROGRESSION in the progress, for from the covenantal and required signal of divine presence and ownership in circumcision, there would now be a new Head to the family, and in Him ALL would figure so that both boys and girls could be similarly marked with the covenantal seal. Thus PENETRATION was made clear, to all who come, no regression but embracement of the totality, from the first. It was as before, but now more broadly.
Hence all the HOUSEHOLD is baptised in the case of the Philippians gaoler, since as Paul puts it in Colossians 2:11-12, if you are baptised, then you have been circumcised. The one embraces, fulfils and furnishes the other; and now the seal of the covenant, this time the NEW COVENANT (Matthew 26:28) is for ALL of the household, not merely males.
PEACE and PANOPLY alike are seen in Luke 2:29ff., for here aged and saintly Simeon, looking for the "consolation of Israel" (2:25) as we ourselves now eagerly look for His return (Hebrews 9:28), being led by the Spirit, came and found the babe just as that moment when, according to the law, He was in the temple for the rite just described.
Simeon was naturally - but more accurately here perhaps, supernaturally enthralled.
NOW, he cried, did the LORD let this His servant depart in peace. For so many years, he had waited patiently and with expectation for this once only event, and now here he was, shepherded into it in the most miraculous way, led by the Lord in his goings! So does the Lord expect us as in Hebrews 9:28 to be awaiting Him (Matthew 24:45ff.).
Notice that it would be incredibly complex for Simeon to find the babe; but the SPIRIT LED HIM (cf. Psalm 32, Acts 829), and he DID find, just as your own impossible needs may be met by the God for whom NOTHING shall be called impossible (Luke 1:37, II Peter 1:4). If He resolves to do it, regard it as done. Ask, however, and ask in faith for all that He promises (cf. Mark 11:23, Ephesians 1:19).
Two more things are noted with Simeon. First he makes it clear, referring to Isaiah 42 and 49, that Christ was to be a light to the Gentiles, and in fact to BE the salvation to the end of the earth. In HIMSELF would this be, not some abstract idea, but as in Isaiah 42, the very focus in Himself, the ineffable and the undisplaceable. This reminds us of the parallel word of the angel in Luke 1:33, where the kingdom to be His is NOT TO END. Thus it is for ALL and for EVER.
III THE PROGRESS in 2:35
If however the penetration to girls as well as boys was to become manifest, there was far more to be found. In Luke 2:35, that pregnant verse, we find that Christ is set for the rise and fall of many (yes, and incidentally, a sword will pierce to Mary's heart), so that the "thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
The thoughts will be revealed, and no cloud of pretence or sanctimony will be able to obscure the plain fact that many are God's enemies, who masquerade as friends, and many who are seemingly almost too lowly to notice, are His friends indeed, not trumpeting, not spiritual strumpets, but serving. So the highest of the high in the priesthood appeared little better than sanctimonious Mafia, stooping to anything, stopping at nothing, so that their plans, displacing God in reality, might be seen for their true worth: DEICIDE! Crucifixion was their sense of a site fitting for the Lord, such a 'divine service' it was.
No cover is left for them as none for Judas! Rich dreams do not become unceremonious reality, but all is testewd, as with the case of the rich young ruler, who coming running, left in sorrow from Christ!
With this is PAIN, as if from a
sword (Luke 2:35), as Mary feels the horror of death for the One placed in her womb, as if
so smitten. Indeed, many are the parents who feel as if a sword had stricken
them, when in Christ's service, they find their children murdered on the field,
or as in the famous case of the Auca Indians, where Elizabeth Elliot, a husband
murdered. At this, she eventually returned to the tribe responsible and with startling results, preached
Pain indeed can come as reality is revealed, and tests show, as with urine or blood, what is the actual case!
Moreover, this word in 1:35 is preceded by the fact that Christ would be a sign spoken against; and again, as to His servants, some of the greatest, like Stephen, are indeed indicted or killed, professionally, financially, physically or in reputation, by the spiritually intoxicated toxins and murderous intent of those who envy them, are exposed by them, or seek to delay or even delete the testimony of truth on this globe. And why ? it is for many, that they may enjoy it, using their differential advantages, their colt-like, heel-kicking abundance of liberty, from any God who lives, as they die in their cultured or cultivated profanity and asinine inanity. The world ? the universe ? the power of things ? ah! that it may be theirs, and for their descendants!
In the midst of this, as in the case of Faithful in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, there is pain as one testifies, fraud as one speaks truth, slander as one attests the Bible and deviousness to be met as one proceeds with simplicity.
PAIN requires PATIENCE, and PATENT REJOICING when it is suffering for the Lord, as in Acts 5:40-41. Indeed, it is a surety for the saint (that is, ANY believer as in I Corinthians 1:2, and more directly in Ephesians 1:1) that suffering must occur, for how would you be in the midst of a battle-ground and be immune from any suffering! (cf. Ephesians 1:11). And what does Paul there say, in his desire for the people of God ? It is that they may be :
"Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power,
to all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness,
giving thanks to the Father..."
Thus does the Christmas season, commemorating properly the BIRTH of Christ, remind us of the WORTH of Christ and the WAY of Christ, which from birth, moved so swiftly that it led early to the Massacre of the Innocents, and His movement to Egypt. That way brings to the birth both exposure and opportunity, and as you trust and follow the Lord, the light from the dayspring from on High (Luke 1:78), is YOURS!
Let the way be never so rough, the light is holy; let the service be never so arduous, the effort is godly; and let the difficulties be ever so humanly impenetrable, the power to resolve is of the Lord, and how HE uses it, how indeed, for this is the pageant of life in the Lord. As the task, so the strength; as the need, so the grace; as the challenge, so the overcoming, as the confrontation, so the conviction, constraint and triumph. He leads us in triumph as Paul reminds us, and that triumph is HIS.
As for us, THIS is the faith which overcomes the world, the faith in Him, the receipt of Him who came as a babe, that we as children of God should know our Father, and our Brother, and rejoice in the simplicity of the faith, as in the wisdom of God for whom no profundity is but open, and no problem but as solved. To know and work with Him, what a Christmas present is this, and it is one which one seeks for every reader not yet with and in Him! Embrace Him in His salvation, receive Him by faith in His atoning triumph, His resurrection power and His enduring love, and unsearchable riches are yours, an unspeakable gift!