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Showing posts with label Messiah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Messiah. Show all posts

Monday, December 21, 2020

The Epochs of Israel - The Messianic Hope

Introduction
This year, because of COVID, people may have to curtail many of their usual Christmas traditions.  Some are even forgoing visits with relatives that they may only see during Christmas.  Who would have thought last Christmas that this Christmas would be so strange?

And yet, Advent—the weeks leading up to Christmas—is a season of hope.  We hope that the number COVID cases will go back down.  We hope the new vaccines will be safe, effective, and available.  We hope that life will soon return to normal. 

Ultimate, as Christians, we have a great hope that Christ will soon come to bring His perfect Kingdom on earth—a kingdom where there will be no more suffering or sickness, no more tears of sorrow, and no more hurting or death.  For as Isaiah 9:6-7 says, “The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.”

This is the great hope of biblical Christianity.  It started way back with Israel in the Old Testament and developed through each epoch of Israel.  An epoch is a period in history, typically one marked by notable events or characteristics.  There were 4 major epochs in the history of Israel in the Bible.  Each stage was part of God’s ultimate plan to save humanity.  In my church congregation yesterday, we used a the following responsive reading to review the epochs of Israel. 

Responsive Reading Review
Pastor:  The Lord our God is mighty to save! His plan of salvation spans the whole course of human history.  The Lord rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. 

People: His faithful love endures forever!

Pastor:  In Epoch 1, the Lord He led the Israelites to conquer the Promised Land.

People: His faithful love endures forever!

Pastor:  In Epoch 2, the Lord raised up judges to rescue Israel from her enemies.

People: His faithful love endures forever!

Pastor:  In Epoch 3, the Lord established the house David to rule as kings of Israel.

People: His faithful love endures forever!

 Pastor:  But the people of Israel and their kings were not faithful to God. Finally, The Lord had to punish Israel.

People:  Babylon attacked and destroyed Jerusalem and took Israel away into exile.

Pastor:  But the Lord promised to bring Israel home.  A Messiah would come to save Israel.

People:  The Promised One would rule on David’s throne forever. This was Israel’s hope.

 All:  And so the Fourth Epoch of Israel begins—The Messianic Hope.

Isaiah 49:5-7

5 And now the Lord speaks—
    the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant,
    who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him.
The Lord has honored me,
    and my God has given me strength.
He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me.
    I will make you a light to the Gentiles,
    and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

The Lord, the Redeemer
    and Holy One of Israel,
says to the one who is despised and rejected by the nations,
    to the one who is the servant of rulers:
“Kings will stand at attention when you pass by.
    Princes will also bow low
because of the Lord, the faithful one,
    the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

Israel’s Hope
This Christmas, we remember the story of Christ’s birth.  Everything about the birth of Christ is soaked in the Israel’s hope for a Messiah.  Remember how the angels announced to the shepherds, “For behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is [the Messiah], the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

By the time Jesus was born, Israel was a conquered nation.  The Roman empire occupied the land and extorting the people, forcing them to pay exorbitant taxes, to provide soldiers for the Roman army, to bring glory and success to Rome at the expense of Israel and her people. 

This was not how it was supposed to be.  Israel was God’s chosen people.  They were to be royal priests who enjoyed God’s special favor.  But the Romans treated them like dogs and there was nothing they could do.  Nothing but hope—hope for a Messiah to save them.  And it was into this great hope and longing that Jesus was born. 

God’s Hope
People usually can’t see beyond their own personal situation—their own hopes and dreams, their own suffering and pain.  God’s vision is infinite.  He sees the whole picture.  So while Israel only hoped for a Messiah to alleviate their personal suffering and political turmoil, God’s vision was to save the whole world.  In Isaiah 49:6 “He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me.    I will make you a light to the Gentiles,    and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.””

Imagine a Greater Hope
And so, as we draw nigh to Christmas, and as we hope for relief from COVID-19 (or whatever major struggle you face), I pray we will dare to tap more and more into God’s grander vision.  Can we go beyond our little hopes and dreams and embrace God’s greater hope?

Can we go further than merely hoping for healing from COVID-19?  Can we go further to hope for healing from all our brokenness?  Do we really want to go back to the way things were before the pandemic? Wouldn’t it be better to go forward to something new and better?

As for me, I hope for the coming of Christ and His great hope.  I join in the great Advent hymn with all my heart singing:

Come, thou long expected Jesus
Born to set thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in thee

Israel's strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart

Born thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a king
Born to reign in us forever
Now thy gracious kingdom bring

By thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By thine own sufficient merit
Raise us to thy glorious throne

Whatever worry or struggle with, I pray your hopes will be greater than to just "Go back to the way things were.  God's hopes for you--for all of us--are greater than to just "go back."  God hopes for us all to "go forward" into something new and better.