Monthly Archives: November 2017

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Christmas Activities

Sunday, December 3rdHanging of the Greens (Sunday School Hour 11:15am-Noon)

This is an all-church gathering where we share, sing and kids get to decorate the Christmas tree, all with a distinct gospel message. Special snacks will be served.

Saturday, December 9th Youth and Family Ugly Sweater Party (Starts at 5pm)

Join us at the Larson home for food, fun, and games. Bring your ugliest Christmas sweater! RSVP to the Larsons by Dec 7th (information at the information table)

Sunday, December 10thCaroling in Our Community (3-4:30pm)

We will be gathering at Harbor and driving to places in our community to sing carols and meet our fellow neighbors in Mooresville.

Sunday, December 17thHymn Sing (Sunday School Hour 11:15am-Noon)

Sing with us a church family Christmas hymns together.

 

Waiting for our King to Return

This past week in our lesson we considered how we are to live as we are Waiting for Our King to Return. Over the past nine weeks, we have seen that God’s word is not simply a disconnected set of random pieces of literature by unrelated authors. Though it covers broad ground in terms of genre, writing style, authorship, chronology, and content, every chapter and book also contributes to the story of God who created a people for His glory and for relationship with Him, and who is at work to redeem them and restore them to fellowship with Himself after they (we!) broke fellowship with Him through our sinful rebellion. Because of His great mercy and compassion, man’s sin was not the end of the story.

We’ve learned that God’s word is His revelation of himself to us, that all creation was created by God as good, that man’s willful sin destroyed that goodness, and that God has been working throughout history using various means (patriarchs, oppressors, priests, judges, kings, prophets, and then some!) to point us to our need for salvation and to fulfill His promise to provide the One who would accomplish that salvation: His son, Jesus Christ. Since the accomplishment of our salvation in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has been about the business of building His church on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets (Eph. 2:20), with Christ as the cornerstone; he is this in both his completed work on the cross and his present, active intercession on our behalf at the right hand of the Father. Not only that, but he returned to the Father that he might send us a helper, the promised Holy Spirit of God, to indwell us. No longer slaves to sin, we have new identities as children of the living God! Consider just some of what scripture says is true of us who believe in Christs’s work on our behalf:

– You are a new creation. (2 Cor. 5:17)
– You are (part of) a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession. (1 Peter     2:9)
– You are a living stone being built up with other believers into a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5)
– You are redeemed and forgiven according to the riches of God’s grace. (Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14)
– You are sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of your inheritance in Christ. (Eph. 1:14)
– You are seated with Christ Jesus in the heavenly places. (Eph. 2:6)
– You are the workmanship of God, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world and created for good     works which God prepared beforehand. (Eph. 1:4, 2:10)
– You are a child of God. (John 1:12, Gal. 3:26, Romans 8:16)
– You are a friend of Jesus. (John 15:15)
– You are justified by faith and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
– You are a member of the body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:27)
– You are a child of God and a fellow heir with Christ (provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be     glorified with him). (Romans 8:17)
– You are God’s temple and God’s spirit dwells in you. (1 Cor. 3:16)
– You are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. (Eph. 1:3)
– You are an ambassador for Christ, reconciled to God through Christ and entrusted with the message of     reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:18-20)
– You have in Jesus Christ a high priest who is able to sympathize with your weakness and lives to make  intercession for you. (Heb. 4:14-15, 7:25)
– You are welcomed and encouraged to approach the throne of grace with confidence to receive mercy and find   grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:16)
– You have boldness and access [to God] with confidence through faith in Christ. (Eph. 3:12)
– You have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of the beloved Son of   God. (Col. 1:13)
– You have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)
– You are born again of imperishable seed through the living and abiding word of God. (1 Peter 1:23)
– Your old self was crucified with Christ so that you are no longer enslaved to sin; you are set free from sin.  (Ro.   6:6-7)
– You are not subject to condemnation in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
– You have eternal life. (John 3:16, 1 John 5:13)
– Your new self is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:24)

This isn’t even an exhaustive list! But what do we DO with it? Are we simply to bask in the enjoyment of our new identity? Of course not! We are to live and walk in it!! Courtney Doctor has reminded us that the story of redemption is an unfolding drama in which we are not merely observers, but participants. Consider the bullet-pointed truths above essential truths and traits that you and I need to embody to play our part as we go about our work of “faithful improvisation.” If we need to know the background on our role, this is a good start! All that we say, do, and think as we participate in this drama should flow from God’s declaration in his word of who we ARE by faith in Jesus Christ.

So how do we go about living and walking in our new identities?

– We give ourselves to being conformed to the image of Christ. (Romans 8:29)
– We present our bodies as living sacrifices, being transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we may be   able to discern what is the will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
– We proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
– We put off the sins that belong to our old nature, and put on the qualities of the new nature that is ours in Christ.   (Colossians 3:5-17, Eph. 4:17 – 5:21)
– We walk by the Spirit, not gratifying the desires of the flesh, but bearing the fruit of the Spirit in all of our   relationships and circumstances. (Gal. 5:16-26)
– We take care that our words are truthful, not corrupting, crude, or foolish, and that they build up, fit the   occasion, and give grace to those who hear them. (Eph 4:25, 29, 5:4)
– We are prepared and look for opportunities to give a reason for the hope that we have, doing so with gentleness   and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
– We are quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)
– We love, serve, submit, obey, look to the interests of others as well as our own, cultivate gratitude, pray, rejoice,   contribute to the needs of the saints, love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, confess our sins, consider   those whose faith is weak, put no hindrance in the way of a brother (or sister), show hospitality…

There is plenty to do, dear sisters, but this doing is wholly unlike us attempting to tackle our never-ending to-do lists! It is a result of walking in the freedom and identity that Christ has provided for us; it is our response to Christ Jesus, our savior. Consider Jesus’s invitation:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”                       (Matthew 11:28-30)

So…

Pursue reconciliation, remembering that the most solid ground for human reconciliation is our reconciliation with God through Christ.
Pursue peace, recognizing that the only peace in which we can have complete confidence is peace with God, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Pursue the flourishing of others, desiring them to flourish for eternity through salvation, which confers blessing upon blessing for both this life and the one to come.
Pursue holiness, righteousness, faith, and love. Pursue your Savior, who pursued you first, and proclaim him by speaking the truth of Him to all!

The 50 Most Important Days in the History of the World – A Summary of Lesson 8

In Lesson 8, Courtney Doctor walked us through the time from Jesus’ crucifixion to Pentecost. It’s kind of staggering to stop and think about all that occurred in this brief period of 50 Days. Why would she claim that this span of time, barely a blip, chronologically, on the radar screen of history, contains THE most important days in all of history? Let’s look:

Crucifixion:
Jesus’ death on the cross bought us back from slavery to sin and death, paying the purchase price, or ransom, for our redemption. (Mark 10:45) He died in our place that, by faith, we might be clothed in his perfect righteousness before the Father and be reconciled to him. (2 Cor 5:18-21) Jesus’ sacrifice was essential to pay the penalty for our sin; his perfect obedience in the Garden of Gethsemane, facing down the agony of bearing our sin and enduring the wrath of God that was due it, undid and redid what took place years before in the original garden, Eden. By agreement with God the Father, Jesus willingly (for the joy set before him! Hebrews 12:2) set aside honor, glory, and perfect, unbroken fellowship with the Father that sinners (his enemies) might be made righteous and granted unhindered access to God. (Isaiah 53, Hebrews 4:14-16, 10:19-22)

Resurrection:
Jesus is not the only good man in history to die – even for the sake of another. But Jesus is the ONLY perfect man to die on behalf of another, and the ONLY one who is BOTH fully God and fully man. Though Jesus’s death is clearly unique in what it accomplished, his death is not the end of the story. As Courtney Doctor notes in our study (p. 142), it’s highly likely that we’d have missed the miracles of Jesus’s virgin birth, sinless life, and atoning death if we’d been alive when they took place. “But at the moment of the resurrection,” she says, “everything changed.” In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul tells us that it is “of first importance” that Christ DIED for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, was BURIED, was RAISED on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he APPEARED to Cephas (Peter), and the twelve disciples, and then to more than 500 others. Jesus appeared physically – in a resurrected body. Jesus’s resurrection is the ground of our hope of eternal life; apart from it, our faith is in vain! (1 Corinthians 15:14-19) 1 Corinthians 15 gloriously spells out the mystery and victory of the resurrection. Resurrection is not only something Jesus did when he conquered sin and death. It is also part of the victory he has secured for us! We, too, have been – and will be – resurrected to new life, according to 1 Corinthians 15 – not just spiritually, but physically, as he was.

Ascension:
While Jesus’s death and resurrection are certainly central to the story of redemptive history, there is still more to his life and work beyond these events. After Jesus’s death and resurrection, his disciples asked him “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) Even those closest to him, who had walked alongside him in his public ministry and been promised a significant role in the building of his church (Matthew 16:13-20), had yet to understand Jesus’s mission. They would understand soon, though! Acts 1:6-11 indicates that after Jesus answered their question, “as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” Verse 11 tells us that Jesus was taken into heaven, and will come again in the same way his disciples saw him go. Hebrews tells us what Jesus is actually, presently doing in heaven. We learn that he is seated there at the Father’s right hand as our great high priest who has offered his perfect sacrifice once for all, thus securing an eternal redemption for us. (Heb. 9:12, 10:12). We learn that he “always lives to make intercession” for those who draw near to God through him. (Heb. 7:25) The kingdom that Jesus came to restore was a greater kingdom than even his closest disciples could imagine while he was still with them! Jesus’s ascension marked the return of the king to his throne, as well as the entrance of the perfect high priest into the Holy of Holies. (Ephesians 1:20, 2:6)

Pentecost:
Back in Lesson 4 we discussed the concept of covenant, and saw that it encompasses the commitments to which God binds himself and to which he calls his people. While most of God’s covenants were between himself and his people, theologians speak of one specific covenant that occurred only within the members of Godhead: the covenant of redemption. In the covenant of redemption, the Father planned the way of salvation, the Son committed himself to accomplish that plan and the Spirit gave himself to effectively apply it in the lives of those who would be saved. While you won’t find “Covenant of Redemption” as a passage or chapter heading in scripture, the evidence of these commitments and their fulfillment are evident throughout its pages. In John 16, Jesus assures his disciples that it is to their advantage that he go away, so that he might send them the helper, the Holy Spirit. Shortly after Jesus’s ascension, we see the Holy Spirit descend upon the people of God in a powerful way. In Acts chapter 2 the Holy Spirit fulfills the promise of Ezekiel 36:26-27, in which God says he will remove his people’s hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh, putting his own Spirit within them, to cause them to walk in his statutes and obey his rules. At Pentecost, the believers were “all together in one place” when a sound “like a mighty rushing wind” filled the house and “divided tongues as of fire” appeared and rested on each one. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Others in Jerusalem “from every nation” heard in those “other tongues” their own language – despite the fact that those speaking were Galileans. (Acts 1:7) Peter, in the power of the Holy Spirit, stood and boldly proclaimed and explained the work of God in Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit being witnessed:

“‘This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing….Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’ So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (from Acts 2)

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:11

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16

Sweet sisters, the Holy Spirit of God dwells in you who by faith have been reconciled to God through His son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. So how do we live while we are waiting for our King to return? I hope you’re being encouraged and edified as you consider that very thing in this week’s lesson.

The Hero Arrives – A Summary of Lesson 7

In Lesson 7 we looked at JESUS, the hero of scripture!

We talked about Jesus being the Second Adam (Romans 5:12-19, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49).

-The first Adam’s disobedience brought death to all men; the “second Adam’s” obedience brought life to all who would believe in him.
-Robert A. Peterson, in Salvation Accomplished by the Son: The Work of Christ, says “Adam ruined his race. Jesus rescues his.” (p. 474)
-Satan won the conflict with the first Adam. Jesus, the second Adam, crushed the head of the serpent and won the victory over sin and death (Gen. 3:15).

-Adam’s disobedience brought the curse to all men. Jesus’ perfect obedience redeems us from the curse.

We looked at Jesus as the Reconciler. (Romans 5:10-11, 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, Ephesians 2:16)

-Courtney Doctor reminded us that we are, in the truest sense, saved by works: the perfect works of Jesus Christ.
-Reconciliation is necessary when a relationship has been disrupted.
-What is broken in our relationship with God is not simply and only that we don’t understand how very much He loves us. To understand how much our Heavenly Father loves us, we must have a sense of all that our sin breaks, defiles, stains, and rips apart. We cannot understand the good news of Jesus’s reconciling work if we don’t understand the depth and gravity of our sin and wonder at the unimaginable length to which God has gone in Christ to address our sin and reconcile us to himself.
-The reconciliation that Christ worked for us by giving himself on the cross gives us peace with God. (Romans 5:1) That peace is the starting point not only for our vertical relationship (with God), but all of our horizontal relationships, as well (with one another).

-As reconciled children, we have been entrusted with “the message of reconciliation.”

We considered what it means that Jesus is our Redeemer. (Colossians 1:13-14, Romans 3:23-24, Galatians 3:13-14, Ephesians 1:7, Hebrews 9:12-15)

-A redeemer is one who pays the purchase price of redemption – the ransom – for another. (Mark 10:45)
-Redemption is necessary where one is captive or hostage. Redemption is necessary for sinners, because they are enslaved by sin. (John 8:34)
-One who has been redeemed is no longer a slave to sin, but is freed to offer the the Lord obedience from the heart.

(Romans 6:15-23)

We discussed Jesus’s being the Perfect Sacrifice. (1 Corinthians 5:7, Hebrews 9, 10:1-18)

-Christ is our Passover Lamb, by whose blood we receive eternal life. (prefigured in Exodus 12)
-The sacrificial system of the tabernacle and the temple required ongoing, repeated sacrifice for sin. Jesus’ perfect sacrifice was made ONCE for ALL; not referring to a universal salvation of all mankind (in contradiction to the clear testimony of scripture), but to the perfection and finality of Christ’s sacrifice of His own body and blood as sufficient payment for the sin of all those the Father has given to the Son. (See John 6, 17)
-Atonement of sin requires sacrifice. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words indicates that the corresponding NT words are “propitiation” and “mercy seat.” It goes on to say this of propitiation:
“It [the word “propitiation”] is never used of any act whereby man brings God into a favorable attitude or gracious disposition. It is God who is ‘propitiated’ by the vindication of His holy and righteous character, whereby, through the provision He has made in the vicarious and expiatory sacrifice of Christ, He has so dealt with sin that He can show mercy to the believing sinner in the removal of his guilt and the remission of his sins….Through the ‘propitiatory’ sacrifice of Christ, he who believes upon Him is by God’s own act delivered from justly deserved wrath, and comes under the covenant of grace.” (p. 493)
-Propitiation is an atoning sacrifice (Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary).

-Courtney Doctor reminds us that “it wasn’t an easy or cheap solution. It was costly beyond comprehension. But, because the Lamb of God willingly placed himself on the altar, his sacrifice was acceptable and pleasing to the Father. And the glorious result is that you and I are cleansed from all our unrighteousness. Permanently. Completely. Finally.” (From Garden to Glory, p. 132)

We saw Jesus as the Conqueror. (1 Samuel 17, 1 Corinthians 15:54-56)

-On Day 5 we looked at the story of David and Goliath. It is not a children’s story about using courage and faith to slay the giants in our lives, however much we might appreciate the thought. You and I probably aren’t intended to see ourselves in David. We’re the Israelites, cowering in fear, defeated at the very prospect of battle before it has even begun. David, as Israel’s conqueror and king, while a REAL conqueror and king in a REAL time and place, ALSO pointed forward to one who would come after him as the ultimate conqueror and king. Our ultimate conqueror and king wins the victory FOR us, defeating our greatest enemy – sin and death.

-Just as the Israelites went from cowering in fear to pursuing their enemies and plundering their camp after the victory was won for them (1 Samuel 17:11, 51-53), you and I are the beneficiaries of a victory won on our behalf that allows us, too, to successfully fight against our enemy and enjoy the spoils won for us by our conqueror, Jesus. (From Garden to Glory, p. 135) Not only that, but we, too, can be considered the plunder of Christ’s victorious battle against our enemy, Satan. (Colossians 1:13, Matthew 12:29) The ESV Study Bible notes on Matthew 12:29 state that “Jesus has come to plunder [the strong man Satan’s] house and rescue people for the kingdom of God” (p. 1845)

And in the video, we heard, as well, that Jesus is our Legal Substitute.

-In our video, Courtney Doctor painted the picture of God as a righteous judge, reminding us that “a good judge is bound to justice.”
-God’s perfectly just character and settled hatred for sin presents us with a serious problem, because you and I, outside of Christ, are guilty and subject to condemnation. Our justly deserved sentence for our sin is death.
-We are wholly and fully guilty, and there is NO defense for our guilt. There is no “hard labor” or restitution we can offer to atone for ourselves and make payment for our sin.-Exodus 34:6-7, while declaring God’s mercy and forgiveness, makes plain that He “will by no means clear the guilty.” God, in His justice, cannot and will not ignore or minimize sin.
-Courtney said in the video, “It is not that God’s mercy overcame His justice. It’s that his justice and mercy are perfectly met at the cross. He did NOT overlook sin…He fully placed all our sin on His son. Justice was met as mercy was given.”
-Isaiah 53 speaks of Christ, our substitute. Read it all right now, if you can. Here’s a portion, to whet your appetite:

“He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6)

Substitute, conqueror, sacrifice, redeemer, reconciler, rescuer, representative (second Adam). Hallelujah! What a Savior!!

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
Full atonement! can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
It is finished! was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious king,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

A Dwelling Place for the King

At the very beginning of the story of God’s word, when all was right with the world, God dwelt harmoniously with his people in a perfect relationship marked by peace and purity. “Naked and unashamed” characterized not only Adam’s and Eve’s relationship with one another, but with the God who made them.

Then sin disrupted that perfect goodness, introducing self-consciousness, separation, and shame, and bringing it into every relationship thereafter, between man and man, and man and God.

As we trace the story line forward, we see that ever since man broke God’s good world with sin in an act of “cosmic treason,” God himself has been at work to redeem and restore what man broke in his rebellion. God has done that by binding himself in covenant commitments to his people, pursuing them over and over again to call them to himself, give them a good work to do, and remind them that they are His and will remain so, because He cannot and will not be untrue to his promises. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

Though the hope embedded in this good news of God’s promise and pursuit carries us forward in anticipation, we cannot help but see that the problem presented by sin is pervasive and ongoing. How can a holy God be reconciled with an unholy people? If sin is not a problem, God is not holy, righteous, and just. If sin is as big a problem as it seems to be, God can never again dwell with man, and man can never again live in joyful fellowship with God. Though we know, this side of the cross, what (or more accurately who) the remedy has proven to be, we must carry with us an awareness of the gravity of the situation  – our situation – to appreciate the miraculous and merciful nature of our rescue and redemption. And, as we study, it is also helpful for us to remember that in the days chronicled by the Old Testament, God’s people, Israel, didn’t have the fulfillment of the “who” that we enjoy today.

As Courtney Doctor mentioned in our video this past week, we zoomed way out to 30,000 feet and covered a great swath of historical and chronological ground in our lesson – about 1500 years’ worth.  Our “flyover” surveyed the following:

-In God’s giving of instructions for the tabernacle – its structure, its rules, and its rituals – God communicated once again not only his holiness, but his desire to dwell among his people. “I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.” (Exodus 29:45-46)

-The establishment of the tabernacle in all of its beauty AND in its regulations both conveyed God’s holiness and protected his people from that holiness.

-“The irony of the tabernacle is the agony of redemptive history. By its very form this structure communicates God’s desire for cohabitation. But the increasing restriction of persons – and the elaborate systems of sacrifice and mediation even for those approved persons – communicated the legacy of sin, separation.” (Sandra L. Richter, The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry Into the Old Testament)

-The glory of God is the manifestation of his presence. It is, as Lindsay said on Tuesday, “splendor with substance.” Where God’s presence is, there his glory is, as well. In the tabernacle, miraculously, the Holy God of the universe, in all his glory, graciously condescended to live in a tent in the wilderness that he might dwell with his people.

-Moving forward, from the tabernacle we looked (very briefly) at the time of the Judges, during which God’s people Israel, after initially refusing to obey by going into the Promised Land, finally entered into it. They also entered into a recurrent pattern of “sin, slavery, supplication (crying out), and salvation.” (From Garden to Glory, p. 111)

-We saw God raise up judges (deliverers) to rescue them out of their oppression, only to see them fall back into the cycle over and over again. The deliverers, though provided by God, could not fully and finally deliver God’s people from the oppression of their ultimate problem: sin.

-Looking back over God’s covenant commitments, we remember his promise not only of offspring, a great nation, and a great name from Abraham’s lineage, but also kings (Genesis 17:6).

-Though Israel demanded for herself a king to be “like all the nations” around them (1 Samuel 8:4) God rejected the king Israel chose for herself (Saul), placing upon the throne of Israel, David, a man after his own heart. God covenanted with David as he had with Abraham so long before. In 2 Samuel 7:16 God tells David, “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” (for more on God’s  instruction to Israel regarding kings, see Deuteronomy 17:14-20.)

-David’s son Solomon began well, reigning with wisdom from God and building a magnificent and glorious temple for God’s dwelling place, but his kingdom was not only not eternal, his reign didn’t even end well. Shortly after his death, Israel was divided into two kingdoms, which enjoyed the rule of very few God-honoring kings over hundreds of years. Eventually, Solomon’s temple was destroyed and God’s people were taken into exile in Babylon and Assyria for their disobedience to God’s commands. (See 1 Chronicles 9:1, Ezekiel 39:23, and many other scriptures that discuss the exile of God’s people.)

-Besides patriarchs, priests, judges/deliverers, and kings, God also sent prophets to his people to remind them of His words and warn them of the consequences of rejecting his good commands for their welfare. Though called by God, in some instances, to outrageous displays intended to impact God’s people and help them see the absurdity and wickedness of their ongoing rebellion, the prophets, just like the priests, judges, and kings before them, were unable to effect the obedience of God’s people. Even their living pictures could not open Israel’s spiritual eyes or soften the hearts of God’s people sufficiently to right their relationship with Him.

-The news isn’t all bad. The latter part of the Old Testament records some promising developments. But even the restoration of God’s people to the Promised Land and the rebuilding of the temple reflect more loss than glory. As the history of the period covered by the Old Testament draws to a close, we are left with a rebuilt temple that is a shadow of its former glory, a people not wholly regathered and reestablished, and a nation that is no longer sovereign, but subject to national powers ruled by pagan kings. God’s people, as a nation, are a people in decline, diminished in stature and glory in the world. God’s people are not the “kingdom of priests” he had called them to be.

400 years of silence. Waiting. Longing. Hope. And surely, as well, its faltering. In the years beyond their return from exile, God’s people waited for the one who had spoken these words to them:

“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses….”

But how? And when?