Tag Archives: prophet

Today’s Scripture – June 14, 2017

Luke 1:76-80 (NIV) And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.

When Zechariah had thought of having a son, he dreamed of a son who would take up the “family business’ and succeed him as a priest of God. But ever since the angel Gabriel had announced John’s conception and birth, his mind was filled with a different vision: John would become a prophet, like the priests Isaiah and Jeremiah. Zechariah knew that a prophet, one whom God used to speak to His people, was an even higher calling than that of priest, and rejoiced that his son would be someone who would be that important in God’s plans.

He could already see that John would go forth in the power of the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of the prophecy in Micah 4:5-6, to prepare the hearts of the people for the soon-to-follow Messiah. This was essential, but would be challenging because too many of God’s people were content with the status quo. They were comfortable living out lives that included Him in theory, but in which He was only really a factor on the holy days, or when they were in trouble.

John’s job would be to hold up the mirror of God’s standards, of His word, to their lives, helping them to see that, instead of being at the center of their lives, God had become a bit player, an add-on, and that without a vital, ongoing, 24/7 relationship with Him, they were just as lost as the pagans at whom they sneered.

But it was not just a message of condemnation that John would bring. It would also be a message of hope laced with warning. Hope because the Messiah was coming to show them the way of salvation. And warning because if the people refused to repent and get ready for Him, they would find themselves under His judgment instead of His blessing.

Zechariah knew that all of this was happening because God was keeping the promises He had made to His people centuries before. The time had finally come.

As John grew into strong, early adulthood, God drew him out into the wilderness to spend quality time with Him, to teach him complete dependence on Him for his every need, and to teach him all that he would need to know when the time came for him to begin his mission.

Father, Your plans are always perfect, always perfectly designed to accomplish what You intend for them, including the people whom You choose to play pivotal roles. Help me to faithfully do what You, in Your wisdom, have laid out as my role in Your plan, so that I never become a blockage that You need to work around to accomplish what You want to do. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 18, 2016

Matthew 11:7-15 (NIV) As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?  If not, what did you go out to see?  A man dressed in fine clothes?  No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.  Then what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’
“I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.  For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.  And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.  He who has ears, let him hear.”

John the Baptist was held in high regard by all the lay people of Jesus’ day.  The religious elite didn’t think much of him because he was outside the mainstream.  His clothing, his demeanor, and his tell-it-like-it-is speech was very off-putting to people who prided themselves on their meticulous religious observance and their self-made holiness.

The common people accepted John as a prophet after the mold of Elijah, and he was indeed that.  But Jesus identified more about John’s relation to Elijah than just his clothes and his fire-breathing sermon style.  The prophet Malachi had foretold a messenger who would be sent before God Himself visited His people (Malachi 3:1).  At the end of his prophecies, Malachi identified this messenger as Elijah (Malachi 4:5-6) – not a reincarnation, but a messenger who would come in the spirit and power of Elijah, who would precede the Messiah, and prepare God’s people for His arrival (cf. Luke 1:17).

Jesus identified John as the greatest man born up to that time, but then He throws a curve ball:  “Yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”  John was the last of a breed, the full-blooded, sold-out, Old Testament prophet.  And with him that line would end on a definite high note, to be replaced by a new breed of God-follower:  the blood-bought, Spirit-filled, saved-by-grace disciple who would not only be able to speak God’s truths, as John did, but who would literally be able to change the world one soul at a time.

John foretold the coming of God’s kingdom (cf. Matthew 3:2), but with Jesus’ appearing, the kingdom became real.  And ever since that day, God’s kingdom had been advancing, pushing forward, bringing light into the dark places of Jewish society.  And Jesus had been joined by a group of men who were actively working in His authority to push the kingdom forward.

It is vital that we remember that when Jesus showed up, everything changed.  Jesus was not about reviving a hide-bound Judaism.  He was about instituting a whole new thing:  the world-transforming kingdom of God.  John did his job, and did it well.  But he actually appeared to ring out his generation of believers, and to ring in a whole new thing:  a new breed of people, purified by blood and fire, who would move forward in the power of the Holy Spirit to change the world.

Father, You have left me speechless!  We are so much less than what Jesus came to enable us to be.  Forgive us, Lord, and help us to recalibrate what we believe is possible for us according to Your vision of who we are to be.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 24, 2015

John 4:16-19 (NIV):  (Jesus) told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.

Jesus’ command for the woman to go and get her husband was an effort to turn the conversation in a different direction.  He already knew her history, as well as all that was in her heart (cf. John 2:25), so He was speaking from knowledge of her situation, not from ignorance.

This woman, as she freely admitted, currently had no husband.  She had had five husbands up to that point in time.  Jesus’ insight and the woman’s response gives no clue as to whether she was divorced five times (the usual teaching these days), or if some of her husbands had died, leaving her to remarry (at least possible for some of them).  But the central fact was that this woman’s heart had taken a beating over the years.  Five times she had given her body and heart to another, and five times it was broken, whether by death or divorce.

Jesus’ statement that “the man you now have is not your husband,” can be taken a couple of ways.  It was unlikely for a woman to be living with a man out of wedlock back then (whatever form marriage had in that society), even in Samaria, but is not entirely impossible.  But Jesus’ statement could have meant no more than that a man was courting her, and may have even proposed marriage to her, but the marriage had either not taken place yet, or she was putting him off, afraid to give herself a sixth time and risk having her heart broken again.

Whatever the situation was, the precision of Jesus’ insights blew the woman away completely.  Up to this point, Jesus had been nothing more to her than “a Jew” (verse 9) who made strange requests and puzzling proclamations.  But now some of His strangeness seemed to slip into focus.  He must be a prophet!  How else could He know all of these things about her?  In all of the old stories, prophets were depicted as strange men who spoke from God many things that were hard for people to understand.  This man certainly fit that pattern!

And so this woman took the first step toward this man who now appeared to be so much more than He had seemed at first.  There were still more steps that she needed to take, but the journey had begun!

Father, everyone’s journey into relationship with Jesus must begin with the realization that He is more than just a man.  So many today are not willing to take that step, insisting that Jesus never claimed to be more than a human being.  They admit that He might be an unusually good man, a great ethicist and teacher, but still believe that He was merely human, like Plato or Aristotle.  In their minds, there is no room for a divine Jesus.  They have to be moved so that they can take that first step, to at least acknowledge that the words Jesus spoke were far beyond anything that could have come from a mere human brain.  If they can, like this woman, acknowledge that He must have been at least a prophet whose words came from You, that is a step in the right direction.  Thank You for this insight.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 13, 2014

Mark 11:12-14 (NIV): The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

Many point to this event as showing Jesus being peevish and even unreasonable. After all, it was too early in the year for figs, being barely into April. The leaves would be out on the fig trees, but no fruit yet. So why would Jesus curse a tree that seemed perfectly normal, just because He looked for fruit and was disappointed?

Jesus never did anything without a clear reason, and He was never peevish or unreasonable. Instead, He was painting a picture for His disciples, much like the prophets of old. (cf., Ezekiel 12:1-14; Jeremiah 19:1-15) Jesus was hungry, just like the world was hungry for the truth of the Lord.       Jesus went to a fig tree for food, just as the people of the world looked to the Jewish people to hear God’s word.       (After all, they claimed to be “God’s chosen people,” didn’t they?) But Jesus found only leaves – all show and no substance. And that is what the world found when they looked for God’s truth among the leaders of the Jewish religion – all show and no substance. They did a lot of showy things, like making their sacrifices by the hundreds and thousands every day, and all of their rituals and celebrations. But when the people looked beneath the leaves, the “show,” they found no real fruit; no people with a powerful relationship with God Almighty.

In Jesus’ final act here, the cursing of the fig tree for its fruitlessness, He was speaking for God the Father. Just as the tree was cursed to never bear fruit again, so God had pronounced judgment on the religious leaders of Israel: that they would be fruitless. God was even preparing at that moment to remove the “show,” their temple, their sacrifices, and all of their grand celebrations in Jerusalem. (That removal would happen in AD 70, when the Romans would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple.) God was planning on doing this because the leadership of the Jewish people were, at that moment, plotting against Jesus, to take His life. And a plot against Jesus is always a plot against God the Father.

That is not to say that all of the Jewish people had rejected God and His Messiah, or that everyone among them was under that same curse (just as every fig tree in the area was not cursed by Jesus). The curse was for those who had rejected God by rejecting Jesus. It fell on those whose religion was only an outward show, and who were so confident in their own righteousness that they rejected the One God had sent to save them from their sins.

Father, this makes sense. It is easy to see that much of the leadership rejected Jesus, falsely accusing Him before Pilate, and even threw You under the bus in the process (“We have no king but Caesar!” John 19:15)! They bribed the guards to lie about Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 28:11-15), and the whole time celebrated the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread with what they believed were clean hands. They really were whitewashed tombs, and trees with showy leaves but no fruit! Father, help us to never fall into that same trap. Help us to keep our hearts open and soft before You, so that You can help us to bear abundant fruit, day and night, every day of the year (cf. Revelation 22:2; Psalm 1:3). Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 13, 2014

Mark 8:27-30 (NIV): Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Jesus’ time was growing short, and it was just about time for Him to start heading to Jerusalem for the last few scenes of His life. By this time He had invested about three years into the lives of His closest followers, and He was disturbed that they had shown so little growth in their understanding of Him and of the kingdom which He had inaugurated, and which He would soon leave in their hands.

Jesus knew that there were diverse opinions as to who He really was, so He started this critical conversation with a “soft ball” question: “Who do people say I am?”

Many people believed that Jesus was John the Baptizer raised from the dead. This opinion was most prevalent among those who had not seen John, but had merely heard about him. Jesus’ message of repentance and the kingdom of God was similar to John’s, and people saw his miraculous restoration to life as a reasonable explanation as to why Jesus Himself was able to do miracles.

Others believed that Jesus was the great prophet Elijah. The Jewish people had been awaiting the Messiah for centuries, but they believed (based on Scriptures like Malachi 4:5-6) that Elijah would reappear first to prepare God’s people for His coming. Elijah had done a few impressive miracles, so Jesus’ miraculous abilities seemed like reasonable evidence that He was, in fact, Elijah, and that the Messiah must be near.

Still others saw Jesus as a mighty prophet, like those written about in the Old Testament.       Prophets were not always foretellers of the future. Rather they were spokespeople for God. And some of them, like Moses, and Elijah, and even Isaiah, did miracles. It had been more than 400 years since a mighty prophet had arisen,. So many saw Jesus as a spokesman for God, a mighty prophet who would help them to know how God wanted them to live.

Then Jesus asked the critical question: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Peter acted as spokesman for the group when he answered: “You are the Christ (the Messiah).”

Jesus’ disciples knew that He wasn’t John the Baptizer. They had been with Jesus while John was still in prison, and several of the them had originally been followers of John. Besides, they had seen that Jesus was far above John in every way. As John himself had said, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” (Mark 1:7 NIV) They knew that He was not Elijah come to earth again. He had done things far greater than Elijah had ever dreamed of doing.   And they knew that He was not merely a prophet, even a great prophet. Jesus spoke and acted with all of the authority of God Himself; not like one with delegated authority, but as if He were God in the flesh.

To the disciples there was only one logical answer to the question: Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for. He was the long-promised deliverer who would save them and set all things right.   They had seen His power at work, they had listened to His teachings, and there was no doubt at all in their minds that He was the One.

Jesus was relieved. It wasn’t all that He hoped for at this point, but it was a step in the right direction.   However, He swore them to silence, because most people (the disciples included) had a distorted view of the Messiah in their minds. They saw Him as a political deliverer; one who would set up an earthly kingdom and a new dynasty of Davidic kings. But He still had a few weeks to help them to understand.

Father, people still have varied ideas as to who Jesus is. Some see Him as a good man, a great teacher, perhaps even a prophet.   But He clearly declared Himself to be the Messiah, the Savior, the very son of God. Help us to know Him for who He really is, so that we can clearly show Him to others. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 10, 2014

Mark 5:21-24a (NIV):  When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake.  Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”  So Jesus went with him

Jairus was a good man.  He was conscientious, devout, observant, and God-fearing.  As the ruler of the synagogue at Capernaum, he was trusted with guarding and overseeing the use of the holy things.  And he took that job very seriously.

Like many of the seriously devout people in Capernaum, Jairus wasn’t exactly sure what to do with Jesus.  How in the world did you categorize someone like Him?  He was a God-gifted teacher, that was obvious.  But He also healed the sick and diseased, and cast out demons.  Some even said that He could raise the dead!  He was an amazing man.  But was He a marvel-working prophet like Elijah?  Was He THE prophet, the precursor of the Messiah?  Or could He even be the Messiah Himself?  Those questions had kept Jairus’ mind humming during many sleepless nights.  Jairus had seen Jesus heal all kinds of diseases and cast out demons with a simple word or a touch.  It had happened several times right in the synagogue!  It was amazing, awe-inspiring!

On this day, Jairus still hadn’t decided how to categorize Jesus, but that really didn’t matter.  For days his daughter’s health had been failing.  She had continued to grow weaker with every hour that the fever had gripped her, and nothing had helped.  This morning she was barely breathing, completely unresponsive.  Jairus had quit praying for wisdom for the doctors.  He had given up praying that THIS medicine would do the trick.  The only thing he could pray for now was a miracle.

Then he heard that Jesus had just arrived back in town.  Jesus!  He could help!  This was the answer to his prayers for a miracle!

He ran as fast as his legs could carry him down to the waterfront.  The huge crowd showed him in an instant where Jesus was.  As he got closer, he could hear that Jesus was in the middle of teaching, but he had to interrupt.  His daughter was dying, had maybe died since he left the house.  He shoved and elbowed his way through the crowd until he finally reached Jesus.

He fell at Jesus feet, not in worship, but to plead with Him on his daughter’s behalf.  Gasping from the run, he cried out, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”

Jesus looked deeply into his pleading eyes for a single beat, and then, with a nod of His head, He helped Jairus to his feet and started moving through the crowd with him.  At that moment it no longer mattered to Jairus how Jesus should be categorized or classified.  It no longer mattered how Jesus’ miracles fit into his theology.  All that mattered was that He really was able to heal broken and sick bodies.  He really was able, and willing, to heal His daughter  It wasn’t in a title that Jairus was now placing his faith, but in what he knew that Jesus could do.

Father, sometimes many things become crystal clear, usually in times of great crisis.  All of our arguing about Jesus, exactly what His nature was, exactly what mechanism He used to work salvation, the exact timing and nature of His return, really accomplish nothing to save and heal the lost and broken in our world.  It is when we become absolutely consumed with the cold fact that someone we love is lost, doomed, without hope, that all of our “theologizing” falls by the wayside, and we are left with the most important thing:  Jesus is the only one who can help.  Jesus is the only one who can save.  I have seen Jesus on many occasions turn a completely lost soul into a saint; turn a destroyed life around so that it becomes productive, rich, joyful.  Father, when push comes to shove, when it is the very souls of our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers that are at stake, help us to not get caught up in our analysis of theological principles.  Help us instead, like Jairus, to throw all of that aside, and merely fall at the feet of Jesus, plead with Him to act, to go with us as we go to them, to put His hand on the dying ones that we love, so that they might be saved.  Amen.

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Mistaken Identities

          After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them.  A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.  When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified.  But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.”  Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
John 6:14-21 (NIV)

It is always interesting to me how perfectly good people, when looking at things using purely human logic, can be precisely wrong in how they analyze a person or situation.  And even followers of Jesus are not immune to this kind of misanalysis due to invalid assumptions or inaccurate worldviews.

Take, for example, the huge group of people who received the bread and fish from Jesus at the feeding of the 5000.  They understood that they had just experienced a HUGE miracle:  Jesus multiplying 5 loaves of bread and two small fish so that, not only did everyone there have enough to eat, but there were even 12 baskets full of leftovers for His disciples.  Nothing of this magnitude had been heard of since the manna in the wilderness.  It was no wonder that the people could see in Jesus and in His actions reflections of the great Prophet that was supposed to come to herald the coming of the Messiah.

Some of the people apparently were having a conference in which they determined that a man that could do this kind of huge miracle could probably throw out Herod and the Romans and take over the government.  He could be an amazing King, and with Him in charge, they would be sure that the supply of food never failed, no matter what!  This went right along with the popular theology that indicated that the Messiah would be a new, ultra-powerful king, who would restore the independence and greatness of Israel, surpassing even that which they had experienced during the time of Solomon.  They apparently decided that, even if this was just the Prophet, He obviously had enough power to pull off the kingship, at least until the real Messiah got there.  And so they decide that they would grab Him, take Him to Jerusalem, and show Him the logic of their plan for Him.

The problem was, they had misjudged both Jesus and His mission.  He was not the Prophet that was to precede the Messiah; He was the Messiah Himself.  And, as the Messiah, His job was not to re-inaugurate the kingdom of Israel, but to inaugurate the kingdom of God as a here-and-now reality.  Jesus was powerful enough to multiply bread and fish, and He was also powerful enough to sidestep their plans for Him, no matter how well-intentioned they might have been.

But Jesus’ disciples didn’t do that much better.  They had witnessed the same miracle, as well as others too numerous to mention, including stilling a storm with a word.  But they still didn’t really understand who Jesus was.  Matthew 14:25-26 tells us that when Jesus came out to the boat, walking on the surface of the sea, as the wind blew and the waves crashed around them, the disciples were terrified because they thought He was a ghost.  They could never entertain the idea that a real human being could walk on top of the water like that!  He must be a spirit of some kind.  But Jesus called out to them and, after they were sure it really was Him, they were willing to take Him into the boat.

You know, I don’t think that even seeing Jesus walk on water convinced them that Jesus was in fact the Messiah.  They already knew He could do amazing things, and I have a feeling that, at this point in their relationship with Jesus, they just figured that this was one more amazing thing that He could do.  Despite the fact that shortly after this Peter declared Jesus to be the Messiah, I don’t think that His followers really understood who He was or what He had come for until that Sunday morning when Jesus rose from the dead and brought the life-giving gospel to life in the hearts and minds of His disciples.

When we have a flawed idea of who and what Jesus is, His words and His actions startle and amaze us.  We try to use Him and His power to our advantage, only to be disappointed, or even disillusioned, when it doesn’t work out the way that we had planned.  But when we receive Jesus for Who He is, and what He is, and what He came to do, we start to get in line with His agenda, and we get to walk in His presence, and be part of the miraculous work that He is still doing in our world today.

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