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These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. John 5:39–40
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby writes of the “uncanny ability of experts to get things hopelessly, cataclysmically wrong.” A quick glance at recent history shows he’s right. The great inventor Thomas Edison, for instance, once declared that talking movies would never replace silent films. And in 1928, Henry Ford declared, “People are becoming too intelligent ever to have another war.” Countless other predictions by “experts” have missed the mark badly. Genius obviously has its limits.
Only one Person is completely reliable, and He had strong words for some so-called experts. The religious leaders of Jesus’s day claimed to have the truth. These scholars and theologians thought they knew what the promised Messiah would be like when He arrived.
Jesus cautioned them, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.” Then He pointed out how they were missing the heart of the matter. “These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39–40).
As another new year gets underway, we’ll hear predictions ranging from the terrifying to the wildly optimistic. Many of them will be stated with a great deal of confidence and authority. Don’t be alarmed. Our confidence remains in the One at the very heart of the Scriptures. He has a firm grip on us and on our future.
Father, whenever we are troubled or alarmed, help us to seek You. We commit this coming year and all it holds to You.
Knowing the future is uncertain; knowing the One who holds the future is a sure thing.
An Old Testament example of “experts” who missed the mark is the account of the “wise men” in the book of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar ordered them to explain his dreams, but these experts admitted, “No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans” (2:11). However, God enabled Daniel to explain the dreams, and he told the king: “No wise man . . . can explain . . . the mystery. . . , but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (vv. 27–28). The king’s experts were right to say no one can reveal mysteries except God, but they were clearly wrong that God does “not live among humans” (v. 11). The Scriptures tell us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).
How does knowing Jesus is God and lives in us through the Spirit give you confidence in this world of uncertainty?
Jesus Christ told His disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit” (John 15:5). As we carry out the Lord’s plans through the power of His Spirit, our lives will have significance, and two practices will characterize us.
1. Treasuring God’s Word in our hearts. When we value something, we think about it often, study it regularly, and learn all we can about it. By studying the Bible, we learn many important things about our God, including His character, plan, and promises. Regular Scripture meditation develops our ability to think biblically and deepens our relationship with the Lord. One of the indications that we treasure His Word is a change in behavior: Decisions will increasingly be guided by His principles, and actions will reflect the fruit of the Spirit. (See Gal. 5:22-23.)
2. Adorning ourselves with kindness and truth. These two virtues are to be our constant companions on the Christian walk. God’s truth has the power to expose ungodly attitudes and behaviors. When this happens, the presence of kindness helps to protect relationships from damage; it can also prevent discord and division in churches. The Lord wants us to speak the truth to one another—but to temper it with loving compassion.
The Christian life is a journey filled with temptations, obstacles, and difficulties that are common to man (1 Peter 4:12). At the same time, it is to be characterized by the fruitfulness that comes from following Jesus Christ, our guide.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:13)
Certain Christian workers practice what they call a “deliverance ministry,” but true biblical deliverance is better defined in terms of today’s verse, which, of course, is the last petition in the prayer that Christ taught His disciples to pray. True deliverance is deliverance from evil, whatever form that evil might take, and preservation until God’s kingdom comes. Let us observe several scriptural accounts of true deliverance.
Note that the Greek word for deliverance has the connotation of “rescue,” and this is its first occurrence in the New Testament; that makes its usage here especially significant. That the Lord will indeed provide such deliverance, if we pray for it in sincerity, is affirmed in many testimonies and promises. Burdened with the problems of his old sin nature, Paul cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” But then the answer comes: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25). Even as his anticipated martyrdom was approaching, Paul could still testify, “The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18).
Peter also assures us that “the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Peter 2:9). He is able to deliver His people from all the evils of this present evil world, to keep them and prepare them for the glory and the power of His coming kingdom, for He Himself is the Deliverance. “As it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer [same word], and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:26). HMM
These petty kings had troubles enough of their own from the greater powers, yet they could not be at peace, plunder was sweet to them.
the house of David, or the representative of David’s royal house
The object of the invasion by Syria and Israel was to put down the kings of the line of David once for all, and set up the son of Tabeal, a creature of their own. There was so much discontented feeling abroad among his own subjects that Ahaz was at his wit’s end with fear.
Ahaz was probably going there to see that water was secured for Jerusalem in case of siege, or that it was cut off from the besiegers: at the conduit the prophet was bidden to meet the king.
Here was a most encouraging message, and a noble opportunity for Ahaz; he had but to trust in the Lord, and have his kingdom established about him, but he was at that moment meditating an appeal to the great Assyrian monarch, and preferred to lean upon an arm of flesh rather than upon the Lord of Hosts.
This was a mere evasion. He knew that if he accepted a sign it would be fulfilled, and then he would have no excuse for distrusting the Lord, but he did not wish to commit himself to the course of action which faith would involve; he preferred to continue his negotiations with Tiglath-pileser. How universally do men prefer the crooked road of policy to the straight path of faith; such conduct never prospers.
Butter and honey shall he eat, that or until
As Ahaz had refused a sign, God appointed one far above anything he could have imagined. A son would be born of a virgin, a divine child, whose name should be “God with us.” Such a child would naturally reach years of discretion very early, but in even less space than it would take for this heaven-born son to arrive at a responsible age, the two enemies of Judah would both be dethroned. Blessed be the Lord for granting to his people so glorious a sign of grace; nothing can afford such comfort to the troubled as the fact that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
Ahaz rejected the way of faith, and therefore the prophet added the following threatening sentence—
For by grace are ye saved through faith… it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)
God chose His only begotten Son as the channel for His grace and truth, for John witnesses that “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ!”
The Law was given by Moses—but that was all that Moses could do. He could only “command” righteousness. In contrast, only Jesus Christ produces righteousness.
All that Moses could do was to forbid us to sin. In contrast, Jesus Christ came to save us from sin.
Moses could not save anyone—but Jesus Christ is both Savior and Lord.
Grace came through Jesus Christ before Mary wept in the manger stall in Bethlehem. It was the grace of God in Christ that saved the human race from extinction when our first parents sinned in the Garden.
It is plain in history that God forgave Israel time and time again. It was the grace of God in Christ prior to the Incarnation that made God say: “I have risen early in the morning and stretched out my hands to you!”
“I will make them to lie down safely.” Hos. 2:18
Yes, the Saints are to have peace. The passage from which this gracious word is taken speaks of peace “with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground.” This is peace with earthly enemies, with mysterious evils, and with little annoyances! Any of these might keep us from lying down, but none of them shall do so. The Lord will quite destroy those things which threaten His people: “I will break the bow and the sword, and the battle out of the earth.” Peace will be profound indeed when all the instruments of disquiet are broken to pieces.
With this peace will come rest. “So he giveth his beloved sleep.” Fully supplied and divinely quieted, believers lie down in calm repose.
This rest will be a safe one. It is one thing to lie down, but quite another “to lie down safely.” We are brought to the land of promise, the house of the Father, the chamber of love, and the bosom of Christ: surely we may now “lie down safely.” It is safer for a believer to lie down in peace than to sit up and worry.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” We never rest till the Comforter makes us lie down.