Blog Archives

Joy and Jubulation

“You love righteousness and hate wickedness, thus God — your God — anointed you with the oil of jubilation over your attendants.”

(Psalm 45:8 {verse 7 in English})

If there were any doubt as to whether this psalm were about the Messiah, this verse ought to put those doubts to rest, for the writer of Hebrews cites this passage and applies it to the Son of God (Hebrews 1:9). And indeed, Jesus Christ is the one who truly loves righteousness and hates wickedness, now and forever.

What is this language of the oil of jubilation (or gladness as many English translations render the word NØwcDc (sason)? Most commonly this term is used in the context of the worship of God’s people as a result of God’s redemptive work that culminates in the Messiah. As the prophet, Isaiah, writes:

“And the redeemed of Yahweh shall return and enter Zion with a cry of Jubilation and an everlasting display of joy upon their head. Jubilation and Jubilation will overtake them and grief and groaning will flee.”

(Isaiah 35:10)

The oil, of course, referring to the anointing of the High Priest and the King…rightly laid upon the head of the Messiah…whose very title means, “Anointed One.”

There is one more thing that we need to draw from this passage and that is the expectation of God that those who follow the Christ seek to imitate the Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). Yet, do we do so? Do we take joy in loving righteousness? Do we recognize that we cannot love both righteousness and wickedness at the same time? To love the one, we must hate the other. Why is it that as Christians we pour out such affection upon sin? And, when it comes to living a life that is obedient to God’s word, we describe it as dull and restricting rather than as one marked by the oil of jubilation? The answer, of course, is sin — and sin is that which robs us of the joy of the wonderful salvation that our Lord has worked.

And thus, we turn back to scripture to set us upon a right path…a path that leads to joy and jubilation — a path that leads to honoring God. As is written in Jeremiah 15:16.

“Your words were found and I ate them and your words became to me joy and the display of joy to my heart, for your name is proclaimed over me, Yahweh, God of Armies.”

King of the Jews

“And Jesus was placed before the Governor and the Governor inquired of him, saying, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ But Jesus said, ‘You say so.’”

(Matthew 27:11)


“And Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ But he answered him saying, ‘You say so.’”

(Mark 15:2)


“And Pilate questioned him saying, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ But he answered him saying, ‘You say so.’”

(Luke 23:3)


As the second of the trials begins, the line of questioning shifts somewhat. The Jews were pressing Jesus repeatedly as to whether he was the Christ and the Son of God. Now that the Judge is no longer a spiritual authority but a political one, he begins asking about Jesus’ political office. Now, it should be said that the Messianic office was political in nature — a kingly office — but the Messianic office is also prophetic and priestly, comprising the three spheres of leadership found in Old Testament Israel. Pilate is a Roman Prefect, this idea of Messianic office does not concern him except if it were to encroach on the political realm that he represents — that is of the Roman Empire. And thus, the nature of Pilate’s question.

But just as Jesus responded to the questions about him being the Son of God (Luke 22:70), he responds to Pilate as well, placing the ball back in Pilate’s court. Though some might see this as nothing more than a fancy debating technique, the sheer fact that Pilate is questioning Jesus implies that people think he may genuinely be the “King” of the Jews.

So, what is a king? A king is a ruler, he instructs and gives commands, and he is a protector of his people as well as an avenger with respect to his enemies. A little later, Jesus will speak of the nature of his kingdom — being a heavenly one and not an earthly one — but, from Pilate’s perspective, this ought to give him pause. Yet, what is more important is the language of the Jews. Here there is a bit of confusion. For Pilate, the Jews were ethnic Jewish people who lived within the various territories of the Roman empire (not just the realms of Judea and Galilee) and who practiced their faith in the synagogues and in the temple. Yet, Scripture tells us a different story. Paul writes that it is not the children descended by flesh that are truly Israel, but those descended through the promise — by faith (Romans 9:6-8; Galatians 3:29).

The citizenship of a believer is not on earth (Philippians 3:20), but citizens in heaven — where Christ rules as King and Lord. In this line, the analogy is sometimes made that our churches are outposts or even embassies of heaven in enemy territory — places of refuge from the wickedness of the world and places that represent another kingdom of which we are a part (just one reason the State has no right to make rules concerning the church). Does that mean that Christ has no rights to rule in this world? Not at all, as creator, he is Lord of all his creation, yet fallen creation has entered into rebellion against their rightful Lord and has followed the “prince of the power of the air” — Satan himself. One day, our Lord has promised to return to wipe away his enemies utterly, but not until he brings to himself all of his elect throughout the ages. Once all the elect are gathered into the church and the last martyr dies for their faith, then He will come again and remake heaven and earth free from sin and once again the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth will be one under the single head of Jesus Christ the Lord.

Those who are Far Off: Zechariah 6:9-15

“And those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the Lord.”

-Zechariah 6: 15a, ESV


The prophet has given us a great and grandiose picture of the coronation of the coming Messiah in this passage.  A crown with many diadems will adorn the royal head of our master, the Lord Jesus.  But Zechariah does not end only looking toward the far future, he closes this passage with a reminder that Yahweh has not forsaken them to failure even in their age.  Yes, this reconstruction of the temple is only a shadow and a pointer to the temple of Christ that will come, but it is a reminder that God is faithful to his covenant people.  More help is on its way.  Ezra will come and Nehemiah will be on his heels.

How often we tend to get discouraged and frustrated with God.  We act as if God has abandoned us to our state and are completely oblivious to what God has in the works.  How often we pitch in the towel before the event has run its course?  And how often have we had to beg forgiveness for out own lack of faith when we see God’s providence delivering us from the very jaws of our enemy. 

We need passages like this to remind us that we do not stand out on the battlefield alone.  We are not only surrounded by a cloud of witnesses but reinforcements are on the way.  We should never fear loosing our last arrow, throwing our last spear, or breaking our last sword in the battle against the enemy for new supplies will arrive as we need them.  Yet we will never be able to stockpile them.  Just as the Israelites received manna in the desert as a daily provision, so we too will receive provisions from God as they are necessary.  What a wonderful God that we have that monitors our daily needs and is in the business of constant provision.

The next time we are tempted to cry out like the martyrs in heaven, “how long,” let us turn to this passage and remember that reinforcements are on their way.  Instead of crying out “how long,” we ought to cry out “where can I serve you next.”

The Festal Horns (Psalm 118:26-27)

“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of Yahweh!

We bless you from the house of Yahweh.

Yahweh is God and he has given us light—bind up the festival in thickets!

As far as the horns of the altar!”

(Psalm 118:26-27)


            While it may seem that these two verses are rather disparate at first glance, they are actually linked together by a common theme upon closer inspection.  Verse 26 begins with a wonderfully Messianic statement: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of Yahweh!”  This statement, of course, will later be used by the crowds as they come to greet Jesus at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem just prior to his crucifixion.  It is a statement that has a clear hope toward the Messiah, and in the context of the “hosannas” that precede it, it is looking toward the Messiah’s kingly office and saving work.  Notice, though, the singular use of the Hebrew participle:  “blessed is the one…”  This should not be seen as an error or as a generalization, but should be recognized as a very individualistic statement.  Blessed is the one, the person, the individual, who comes in Yahweh’s name, representing him to the people of Israel.  All hail the king who comes—all hail Yahweh’s anointed one!

            As we move on in the psalm, though, there is a shift in verse 26 to the plural that continues through verse 27.  The psalmist, being a good southerner (southern Israel, that is…) says, “We bless y’all from the house of Yahweh.”  Sometimes in English, we miss the plural use of the second-person verb, but here we have the transition.  The rest of this passage is not so much focused on the “one” coming in, but all of the believers—all of the faithful—coming in to God’s house to worship—all faithfully hoping and praying for the coming Messiah.  How these festivals looked toward the fulfillment of this ancient promise; how sad it is that when the one who fulfilled that promise came, the Jewish leaders rejected him and put him to death.  How narrow-sighted we can become when we are more concerned with our own agenda and tradition than with the truth.

            So how does verse 27 tie into this picture.  The first thing we must note is the very general principle that the festivals of ancient Israel all revolved around various sacrifices for sin and guilt.  In and of themselves, the sacrifices had no power; it is the sacrifice of Christ, once and for all times, that gave efficacy to the older animal sacrifices.  The sacrifices of the animals served two important functions: first, they were meant to show the horrific nature of sin that would require such a bloody sacrifice and second, they were designed to point toward Christ’s sacrifice to come.  And because there is surety in the promises of God, these sacrifices could be performed earlier with effectiveness because of the absolute certainty that Christ was coming to fulfill what the earlier sacrifices only symbolized—a substitutionary and propitiatory atonement for sins through the blood of Jesus.  Thus, the people looked forward to and celebrated these times as they represented forgiveness from sin, which separated them from a holy and righteous God.

            Secondly, notice the language of this verse as we have translated it: “Bind up the festival in thickets!”  Usually, this is translated in terms of binding up the festival sacrifice in cords, but that is not what the text says precisely.  First of all, the term gx; (chag) refers to the festival as a whole, not the specific sacrifice on the altar.  One could make the assertion that the heart of the festival as a whole is the sacrifice, making the language idiomatic (using language that reflects the whole to speak of the central sacrifice).  I think that this misses what the psalmist is seeking to emphasize.  The language that speaks of the whole being used in the context of the central sacrifice can also be used to make the point that all that is done in the festival is sacrifice.  Given that this is a Hallel Psalm, it seems quite reasonable to see this whole psalm as a sacrifice of praise to our God—that indeed, all that is done, from the streaming down of the people into Jerusalem, to the sacrifices on the altar, to the rejoicing on the trip home—all of that was connected to this festival was a sacrifice of praise to our God.

            We need to park here for a few minutes and remind ourselves of the evangelistic nature of so many of these Hallel Psalms.  One thing that most believers forget is that they are being watched by an unbelieving world.  One of the methods by which we witness the gospel is the way by which we live our daily life.  Sure, we may witness to them by sharing our testimony, gospel tracts, and offering short Bible studies, but what impact will that witness have if they see us dragging our feet Sunday mornings on the way to church?  If they see you grumbling all of the time, what will attract them to the kind of life you are living?  Beloved, do not forget that part of your witness is the joy and peace that the watching world observes as you live out your faith day to day, and imagine the power of your witness if your unbelieving neighbors see you excited about going to church on Sunday mornings! 

            What then about the language of the “thicket”?  The word that is used (and is often translated as “cords”) is the term tAb[‘ (avoth).  Literally, this term refers to branches of trees or bushes, like a thicket in the woods.  The idea of the sacrifice being bound in a thicket had significant theological connotations for the Jewish people, for Abraham, when taking his son up on the mountain for sacrifice, found a ram caught in the thicket to be sacrificed instead of his son (see Genesis 22).  The idea of a sacrificial animal caught in a thicket, then is connected to the idea of God’s providing of a sacrifice (certainly and ultimately fulfilled in the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, the Messiah).  In the context of the festivals, indeed the provision of sacrifice was a provision that was seen as divine mercy and providence, not one of human works.  Thus, the sacrifice of praise, from beginning to end, was taken to the horns of the altar, from entry to sacrifice to exit—a sacrifice to the Lord. 

One final note about the language of the “horns of the altar.” While we don’t know the origin of the tradition, it seems that in Ancient Israel, people held the belief that clinging to the horns of the altar would provide them sanctuary and refuge from their oppressors.  In 1 Kings 1:49-53, we find Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, running and clinging to the horns of the altar for protection.  Soon afterward, as recorded in 1 Kings 2:28-35), we also find Joab doing the same.  It seems that Solomon puts an end to this tradition, for while he pardons Adonijah, he has Joab slain while still clinging to the altar’s horns. In a similar vein, though this is a negative example, when God speaks through the prophet Amos, commanding him to speak of the judgment that is coming upon the people, one thing he states is that he will “cut off” the horns of the altar at the time of said judgment, implying that the presence of the horns on the altar was at least symbolic of God’s protection for his people—that in this judgment that is coming, there will be no place of refuge for the people to go (see Amos 3:14).  True refuge is in the arms of the redeemer. 

Lastly, we would be remiss if we did not make mention of the language of God having given his people light.  This, of course, carries with it a double reference.  First, it looks back to the creation account where on the very first day of creation, God said, “Be light!” and it was.  Indeed, even before the sun or the stars were brought into being, God revealed the light of his glory, shining forth upon creation.  In addition, light is a major Biblical theme that is connected with truth.  From what other place do God’s people gain truth?  It is found in God’s word and in God’s word alone.  Yes, we may glean some things from the natural world around us, but unless they are interpreted through the light of God’s word, what is learned is shadowy and incomplete light indeed.  It is God alone who dispenses truth and wisdom, and God has revealed that within his wonderful and glorious Word—indeed, the Word, the Bible, which points to the one who is the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the revelation of the glory of God.  Beloved, let every moment of our worship reflect the joy we have in Jesus Christ in such a way that when the unbelieving world sees us, they see something in us that they don’t have, but want—and are drawn to Christ as a result.  Rejoice, loved ones, rejoice in your Savior, that others may want to do so as well!

We praise thee, O God! For thy Spirit of light,

Who has shown us our Savior and scattered our night.

Hallelujah! Thine the glory,

Hallelujah! We sing;

Hallelujah!  Thine the glory,

Our praise now we bring.

-William Mackay

No One Comes To the Father, But Through Me: John 14:6

“no one comes to the Father if not through me.”


            Jesus begins and ends this passage by focusing on himself.  Friends, salvation can be found in no other person or path.  It cannot be found in philosophy, in science, in achievements, in wealth, in family, in humanism, in Buddha, in Mohammed, or in anyone or anything else.  Our world presents many options and paths—some of which even sound convincing—but the only way to the Father is through Jesus.  The only hope of a resurrection is found in the one who was resurrected.  The only hope of eternal life is in the eternal one who is the life.  And the only truth in this world is found in the person of Christ, who has revealed to us the mysteries of God’s redemptive plan. 

Jesus Christ is not only the focal point of all of scripture, but he is the point on which all of history revolves about.  You might enjoy talking about politics, but politics has no eternal significance.  You might enjoy talking about sports, but sports has no eternal significance.  You might enjoy talking about literature, but literature has no eternal significance.  The only thing that has eternal significance in the history of mankind is Jesus Christ and the work that God had done and is doing through him.  That is the bedrock of your faith—I urge you to stand upon it without wavering and without doubting when the winds of trial fill your days.  Trust in Him, and Him alone, dear friends, even though the world would tell you otherwise.


No One Comes to the Father: John 14:6

“no one comes to the father”


            Do you see how the Trinity is at work in redemptive history?  We offended God by our sin and our rejection of his law.  Yet, rather than leave us to our deserved fate, God chose to work in our lives to redeem a people for himself.  God the Son provided a sacrifice to atone for our sins, bridging the chasm of sin between us and the Father.  And God the Holy Spirit regenerates the heart of each member of the elect, and through faith, draws us to God the Son, and through God the Son, we are brought to God the Father.  The symmetry of God’s redemptive plan is a beautiful thing to behold.

            But what is even more beautiful is the face of a believer when he or she truly realizes that they have been redeemed—not that they have earned redemption, but that they have been redeemed by a work of God himself.  In this life, we struggle with a load of burdens and cares, brought on by our fallen state, when Jesus lifts that burden from the shoulders of one who is newly redeemed, oh what a joy does fill their heart.  And the joy does not end there, the angels in heaven rejoice in praise to God as well (Luke 15:10).

            Friends, take the time to remember your own conversion, the time when you finally realized that you could stand before the Father’s throne not on your own flawed righteousness, but in the righteousness that is Christ’s.  Don’t ever forget the joy and the desire to worship that filled your heart on that day.  Some of you may not remember a time when you did not embrace Christ as Lord, and the blessings of a lifetime in fellowship with him have richly blessed your soul.  This is one of the great mysteries of God’s love—that he would choose to redeem a fallen and sinful race—that he would choose to redeem you and me, and that we might have fellowship with him.   I am reminded of the old Bill Gaither hymn:

Shackled by a heavy burden,

Neath a load of guilt and shame—

Then the hand of Jesus touched me,

And now I am no longer the same.

He touched me, O He touched me,

And O the joy that floods my soul;

Something happened, and now I know,

He touched me and made me whole.


Christian, rejoice and praise God for the fact that Jesus has brought you to the Father.

No One Comes: John 14:6

“no one comes”


            I once heard a preacher say that if you are feeling distant or separated from God that it is you that moved, not he.  There is a great deal of truth in that statement.  Sin is a great divide that separates us, a sinful people, from a Holy God.  And the divide was caused by our sin.  Yet, praise be to God that a bridge has been provided for us in Jesus Christ! 

            The debate in Christian circles is not over whether we come, but over what causes us to come.  This debate is often called the Calvinistic/Wesleyan or the Calvinistic/Arminian debate, but the roots of the debate go back much further than John Wesley, Jacob Arminius, or John Calvin.  The roots of this debate lie with a man named Pelagius and Saint Augustine.

            Pelagius denied the doctrine of Original Sin (I guess he never had children).  He said that all sin was learned and that we could live a sinless life if we just tried hard enough.  Of course, were even one person able to live a perfect life, then there would be no need for the sacrifice of Jesus.  Eventually the church pronounced Pelagius and his view heretical, as it denies the need for the atonement.

            While Arminius did not deny Original Sin, he did build on Pelagius’ premise that we are capable of coming to faith in Jesus on our own strength, that faith is something we bring to salvation.  While Arminius and his followers’ teachings were never well received in their native Netherlands, a young English preacher named John Wesley became enchanted by their teachings.

            Ultimately, John Wesley would affirm God’s sovereignty over everything except the human will.  He said that God woos us to himself through his “prevenient grace” (grace that goes before), but the ultimate choice was left up to us.  In Wesley’s view, Jesus’ death was to atone for the sins of everyone, it was just up unto each individual as to whether they would accept the gift he offers.  God regenerates the sinner, but not until the sinner comes to him in faith.

            We who are in the Reformed tradition of Calvin and Augustine disagree vehemently with this position.  Through sin, death entered into the world (Genesis 3) and we die not only physically, but apart from the spirit, we are dead spiritually (Romans 8:5-8).  One who is dead can do nothing to aid his own cause—he is dead, and can only rot and become more corrupted.  It is impossible for the spiritually dead to please God in any way (Romans 8:8).  Thus faith is not something we are capable of providing; rather, when the Holy Spirit regenerates the believer, He also instills faith into the believer. 

            Wesley was never comfortable with the ramifications of this theology.  For if faith and regeneration were a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, then God must be doing the choosing when it comes to redemption.  To this, the Calvinist says a hearty, Amen!  The scriptures are filled with references to God’s election of his people.  All through history, God chose certain people to bring to himself and others to leave to their sinful ways.  If you take the scriptures seriously, you cannot get away from this fact.  Christ’s death was fully effective for all of those whose name were written in the Book of Life from before the foundations of the earth (Ephesians 1:3-6).  Upon just this issue, Jesus himself says: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will not ever cast out.”  (John 6:37)

            Friends, we are surrounded by people who teach that faith is something that you generate from within yourself, and because of that, you can lose your salvation if you don’t stand strong enough in the faith.  This is not the teaching of scripture.  If God does the working in you, he will do the keeping of you until the very end (Romans 8:28-30).  Though we need to work hard to live a life for God’s glory, not backsliding into sin, we can take a great deal of encouragement that it is God himself who will ensure that we finish the race.

            Loved ones, take heart.  God has called, he has awakened your soul, and he has given you faith so that you might come to his son, Jesus.  You have been brought out of the darkness and into the light of Christ, and Christ will not turn away any who his father has given him—no never, will he cast you away.

No One: John 14:6

“no one”


            Jesus has moved from making a positive statement of the truth to a negative one.  First he says, “Yes, I am the way…” and now he is saying, “No, there is no other way.”  In this way, Jesus makes sure that we understand the exclusivity of the Christian faith.  There is no room for any compromise or alternate ideas.  Jesus is the only way and apart from him, no one comes to the Father—at least in any sense that they would want to encounter the Father.

             While our culture, and in turn, many of our churches, has embraced inclusively, this is not the position of Jesus.  He was very clear that it was only in him that salvation can be found.  There is no sneaking into heaven by any other way.  No matter how good or kind a person is, if they are trusting in anything or anyone other than Jesus, they will face eternal condemnation.

            Sometimes I wonder just how seriously we take this part of the message.  When someone dies, the first thing that we say, is, “well, they are in a better place…”  Are they?  If they knew Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are in a far better place, but if they did not know Jesus personally—given all of the Biblical descriptions of Hell, it is a far worse place than here.  When we have loved ones who are exhibiting no evidence of God in their lives, how often do we refrain from asking about Jesus?  How often do we turn our heads, hoping that in the end, everything will work out OK?

            Jesus is phrasing this statement in both a positive way and a negative to make in unmistakably clear in our minds that while there are many roads, there is no other road that leads to salvation.  Friends, if we understand that no one who has not put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior has any hopes to go to heaven, let us be more serious about sharing the Gospel with those we love and those who are around us.  You are never too young or old to do so.  There is absolutely no other path to heaven but in Christ, let our hearts yearn to see more souls join us on that path.

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: John 14:6

“I am the way and the truth and the life”


            Not only is Jesus the true way and the truth within the world, but he is the life.  There is no life apart from life in Christ.  Though some people may think that they can find life in this world; they look for life in wealth, or wisdom, or achievements, or pleasure, but as Solomon tells us in the book of Ecclesiastes, anything that is done apart from God is vanity—it is like trying to chase the wind.

            But Jesus is making an even more profound point.  Back in Genesis, Adam and Eve were warned that the penalty for sin would be death.  And though, when they ate of the fruit, death entered into the world in a physical sense, it also entered into the world in a spiritual sense.  At the moment that Adam and Eve chose to sin, they died in a spiritual sense.  The relationship that they had with God was severed and broken, and unbridgeable by anything that we could do.  They were dead to sin and just as a corpse is unable to do anything but corrupt, so their souls were unable to do anything but corrupt as well.

            Yet, Praise be to God that this is not the end of the story!  Right there in Eden, God gave to Adam and Eve a promise of a redeemer, one who would crush the head of Satan and his influence on man forever more.  Jesus is that promised one.  The Old Testament Saints placed their faith in a promise, but Jesus wanted us to be very clear that in him that promise was fulfilled.  God breathed life into the dead spiritual corpses of Adam and Eve on that day, just as he continues to breath life into spiritually dead corpses today—regenerating them and instilling in them a faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the life; he is the way a believer must walk and the truth a believer must trust in, but he is also the life, which allows the believer to believe in the first place.  As the Augustus Toplady so eloquently put it: “Nothing in my hand I bring; Only to the Cross I cling.”

            Christian, do not take for granted what God has done for you even before you recognized yourself as a believer.  Though your heart beat and your flesh felt strong, you were no more than a walking corpse prior to the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration in your life.  Your soul was rotten and decayed.  But just as God can breath new life into the old bones of Israel (Ezekiel 37), so too was God able to breath new life into your soul and remake it new.  This life you have is in Christ, it is the only life that is available—all who deny it are but walking dead.  Beloved, trust in Christ with your all, because he is your all.

I am the Way and the Truth: John 14:6

“I am the way and the truth”


            Once again, we find Jesus using a definite article before the word truth.  Not only is Jesus the only way that leads to life eternal with the Father, but he is the only truth that we have access to in this world.  Think about that for a moment.  If Jesus is THE truth, then ANYTHING that contradicts or stands in opposition to Jesus must, by definition, be a lie.  And since Jesus is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14), then the Bible, which is the Word of God given to us, must also be THE truth and irrefutable.

            In our post-modern culture, where the rules of logic and reason are thrown out of the window and where everything is considered to be relative, a statement like this does not sit well.  Yet, it has not sat well with people through the ages.  Men would rather hear what pleases them than the truth (2 Timothy 4:3).  Philosophers are not interested in the truth; rather they are interested in being novel. 

            Yet Jesus says that he is the truth and he leaves no room for any competition.  Jesus is the truth and if we desire to know the truth about any and all things, we must turn to him and to his word.  This means, then, that the Scriptures must be the basis for our understanding of everything else that is.  In other words, the Scriptures are the only glasses that we can look through so that we can see the world clearly.  If anything seems to contradict scriptures, it must be wrong.

            Science will tell us that the world is about 5 billion years old.  There certainly seems to be some evidence in nature to support that hypothesis.  At the same time, scripture tells us that the world is only 6,000 to 8,000 years old.  The scriptures must be right.  How are we to understand the scientific evidence?  One of two ways:  either that the scientists are not interpreting the data properly (though this is probably not the case) or that God created the world to look older than it really is. 

            Does this mean that God is being dishonest?  Not at all, he never claims that the world is billions of years old.  What it means is that the scientists are only looking at part of the evidence.  There are logical reasons why the world seems as old as it seems, and were scientists to look to the Bible and not just nature, they would understand these things.  All of creation is part of God’s general revelation to the world, for it all points to his handiwork.  If people choose to ignore that general revelation in search of a naturalistic explanation, how can God be held responsible for their error? 

            But more important than general revelation is special revelation:  The Bible.  The Bible is not a systematic encyclopedia which gives us a little bit of information on all things, rather it is an exhaustive work that gives us all the information we need to know about the relationship between God and man.  It is the manual that instructs the saved and leads others to the object of salvation, the Truth made flesh, Jesus.  Our culture is fond of thinking that there are many truths; yet, there is but one.  Jesus died for the sins of all who would put their faith in him as their Lord and Savior.  He died in their place, taking their just punishment on his shoulders.  And he was raised!  And because Jesus was raised, we who have our faith in Jesus have been promised resurrection as well.  Friends, this is the truth.

            In a world that glorifies “tolerance” as its chief virtue, it is easy to get deceived into thinking that there might be other legitimate faiths.  But this is not so.  All who are not trusting in Jesus for their salvation will stand in judgment based on their works, and no one can stand before a righteous God on their own merit.  Jesus is the only way to salvation, and he is the only truth.  Everything else is no truth at all.

I am the Way: John 14:6

“I am the way”


            It is important that you read this statement very closely, because many people in our culture do not understand the language that Jesus is using.  He says, “I am THE way,” he does not say, “I am A way.”  Our culture seems to think that it does not matter whether you are a Christian or a Muslim, “whatever you call God,” they say, “is all the same.”  They feel that everyone is going to heaven and what is most important is that we simply all get along here on earth.  Because of that, they accuse evangelical Christians of being narrow-minded and pushy with our faith.  They see us evangelizing on the street corners, in hospitals, or at disaster scenes and they say we are offending their privacy.  They would rather that we leave them alone for a few years on earth than avoid an eternity of damnation.

            Yet, what is most interesting about this culture’s position is that it wants to affirm that a group of mutually exclusive religions as being compatible.  That is like trying to affirm that a coin is a nickel and a dime at the same time—it just cannot be.  Jesus said that he was “THE” way!  It is a statement of total exclusion.  There are no other ways or paths that can be followed; Jesus is the only option if you want to avoid the fires of judgment.

            If we are true to scripture and true to the teaching of Jesus, we can take no other stance than this; there are no other options.  You are either trusting in Jesus for salvation or you are not, there are no in-betweens and no grey areas.  There may be other roads, but those roads, though easy, only lead to destruction (Matthew 7:13).  Jesus is the only way that leads to life.

            The thing that we often struggle with is being truthful with other people, especially those closest to us.  We fear offending them.  Truth, be told, though, these people are those we ought to work the hardest with, for is it not those who we love the most who we ought to desire the most to spend eternity with?  Beloved, if these people are truly your friends, they will be the least likely to recoil from you if you share the Gospel with them.  If they are willing to walk away from a friendship because you are concerned for their soul, then you should bring into question the caliber of friendship that you had with them in the first place.

            Friends, do not be so worry about offending that you quietly participate in the eternal destruction of those you care about.  Love them with the truth.  Just as an animal cannot be a cow and a dog at the same time, so too, if your goal is heaven, you can look to no other place but Christ.   

I Am: John 14:6


“I am”


            Not only is Jesus drawing attention to himself when he emphasizes the “I” of this statement, but he is making another connection as well.  In Exodus 3:14, when Moses asks the Lord what name shall he give to the Israelites as to who is sending him, the Lord says to tell the Israelites that he is “I AM WHO I AM.”  In the next verse, God simply tells Moses to tell the Israelites that “I AM sent me.”

            The language of “I AM” is important in our understanding of God, for God simply is.  He exists independent of time and space, he is boundless and timeless, and he has always existed and always will exist.  Before God created the world, God was and only God was.  There is nothing that was created that did not have its origins in God’s work and nothing is outside of God’s divine and sovereign control.  God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.  And by Jesus making the statement, “I, I am…” one of the claims that he is making is that he is the “I AM” of scripture; he is Yahweh having taken on flesh.

            Jesus is stating that all of the attributes that we attribute to God belong to him as well.  Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and to know him is to know the Father (John 14:7-11).  Friends, do you see what Jesus is claiming here?    He is making an explicit statement of divinity.  He is saying that he is God, the one who created all things and preserved a people for himself, and is all-powerful—and he has chosen to take the way of the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.  He is not offering an ordinary sacrifice, but a perfect, flawless, and divine sacrifice for the sins of you and me.

            Jesus is preexistent and eternal, and he chose to put aside his rightful glory to walk this earth.  He chose to endure the abuse and the spite of our race, yet he is God himself.  He chose to suffer and die for sins that did not belong to him, but belonged to us, so that we might come to him.  Jesus had all of the agony of Hell dumped on his shoulders so that we might not have to face its fires.

            Friends, this is the Gospel in a nutshell—to those who put their faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior, he has suffered in their place and given us a promise of redemption instead.  What is sad is there are people in this world who would try and make us believe that Jesus was not really God.  Friends, there are many examples where Jesus claims his deity, and this is just one.  Rest in the promise that the Lord you serve is God and that he loved you enough to pay the penalty for sin on your behalf.  I can think of no more blessed a promise than that.

I: John 14:6



            This statement begins with the Greek word “ejgwv” (ego), which means “I.”  Though this may not seem significant, it is significant in the Greek language, for in Greek, the verb carries its own subject, in other words, it is redundant to use the actual word for “I” unless you are doing so for emphasis.  Literally, this statement begins, “I, I am the way…”

            Jesus is drawing attention to himself.  Not only is he the only pathway to the father, but he is the focal point of all Christian living.  It is his life, not ours, that is of utmost important.  The key is not the destination, but the guide that you are following.  It was more important for Thomas to understand that he must follow Christ than the destination to which Christ was leading him.

            Is that not all of our difficulties?  Do we not often get impatient with the journey, wanting to get to the destination more quickly?  Are we not a society of shortcuts and impatience?  We want everything yesterday and wish to wait for nothing.  Yet, Jesus tells us to stop focusing on ourselves and trust him.  We become impatient when we fail to trust the guide that is leading us, which in turn causes our eyes to wander.  Jesus is not saying to take our eyes off the goal of Heaven—never must we do that, but what he is saying is that we need to trust in him and in his timing. 

We can only see the road to heaven clearly when we are looking through the lens of Christ.  Jesus begins with “I” because everything for the Christian begins, ends, and revolves around Him.  Remember, it is not the human “I” that will guide you to your heavenly goal, but it is the divine “I am” who will bring you safely to your destination.


I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: Intro

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the father if not through me.’”

John 14:6


This is one of the most well known statements that Jesus made, at the same time; we rarely take the time to reflect upon all of the theological implications that are contained within these words.  The point of this little study is to take some time to unpackage all that there is contained in these famous words of Jesus.

To set the stage, Jesus has come to Jerusalem at the end of his three-year ministry to celebrate the Passover meal with his disciples.  Though the disciples do not yet fully understand what is going to happen, this Passover will be the most important Passover meal of their lives, and indeed, of all of history.  What marks this Passover celebration is not so much the slaughtering of the thousands of lambs that are brought into the city, but the slaying of one Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God himself.  Jesus is the Passover Lamb for the world, the only perfect and pure sacrifice for our sins.

This last week of Jesus’ life is the most significant portion of the Gospels, and comprises a bit more than 40% of John’s Gospel text.  There is a lot that goes on during this week, the triumphal entry, the clearing of the temple, the plotting and betrayal of Judas, the Last Supper held in the upper room, the arrest, the trial, the crucifixion, and praise God, the resurrection!  Though all that Jesus did and taught is very important, this last week of Jesus’ life is vitally important for us to understand.

The passage in John that we will be spending some time with takes place in what we know as the “upper room.”  Jesus has washed the disciple’s feet and the Last Supper has been given (although John does not detail it as the other Gospel writers do).   Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial have been predicted by Jesus.  This must have been a sobering thing to hear. 

And it is in this context that Jesus gives some of the most wonderful words of blessing, commission, and assurance to his disciples.  It is here where Jesus promises the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them in power and where he gives the analogy of himself as the true vine—a promise steeped in Davidic tradition.  It is here where Jesus assures his apostles that while the world will hate them, he has overcome the world.  Also, it is here where Jesus offers up what is now known as his “High Priestly Prayer” on behalf of the Apostles and on behalf of all believers who would come after them—on behalf of you and me.  It is in this context that Thomas asks Jesus how they might follow him if they don’t know where he is going.  And it is in this context that Jesus answers Thomas with this wonderful statement:  “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the father if not through me.”

Liberation!: Isaiah 61:1f

“and to the ones imprisoned—liberation!”

(Isaiah 61:1f)


            This final clause in Isaiah 61:1 naturally follows the previous statement.  With the coming of the Messiah, the chains of bondage to sin are released, they are broken, and the prison cells of death have been opened wide.  Indeed, our Lord proclaimed just that message:

“Truly, Truly, I say to you that an hour is coming and is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and the ones who hear will live.”

(John 5:25)

The final clause in this verse, which I have translated as “liberation,” is a Hebrew idiom comprised of two similar ideas for release, or delivery from prison:  x;Aq-xq;P. (peqach-qoach).  The key to remember here is that the language reflects the idea of being released by someone else from something that you could not free yourself of.  In other words, it reflects the idea of being liberated and not the idea of escape.  Indeed, there are many human bonds and constraints that we may be able to throw off on our own strength, but sin and death are the two things that have bound us as a race in a way that we are helpless against apart from a divine act of liberation.  And indeed, dear friends, this is the liberation that is worked by Christ Jesus!

            It is worth pointing out that the language of “liberation” has been used by some in our culture to promote an un-Biblical political theology.  “Liberation Theology” as it has been called, takes passages like this and argues that the purpose of Christ’s life and death was to open up avenues for relief from political oppression.  This theological model has then been adapted to meet the specific needs of particular groups.  Thus, there has been Feminist Liberation Theology, Black Liberation Theology, Hispanic Liberation Theology, etc…  And while genuine Christianity lived out does seek to lift people from their oppressed conditions (the abolishment of the slave-trade, for example), this particular theology seeks to reverse the roles, placing the oppressed in a position where they can now oppress their former oppressors. 

            Not only does this theology blend political Marxism with a mis-interpretation of scripture, but it also departs from the witness of historical Christianity, where believers have regularly sought to evangelize their oppressors.  More importantly, it misses the whole point of Christ’s atoning and liberating work.  Jesus did not come to serve a political agenda, he came to redeem us from our sins.  He did not come to make it possible for us to throw off our earthly oppressors; he came to redeem us from the eternal judgment of God.  It misses the point when Jesus says, “blessed are those who have been persecuted in the name of righteousness…” (Matthew 5:10).  In addition, does not Peter also teach us that it is of no merit if we suffer for our sin (1 Peter 2:20)?  Instead of repaying evil for evil, are we not to repay evil with good (1 Peter 3:8-9)?

            Beloved, rejoice in the liberation that you have been given, but understand what Jesus is liberating you from.  You are being liberated from sin and death; you are being liberated from the fate of eternal judgment!  How much greater and more wonderful is this liberation than anything that men can work in this world! How much more permanent this liberation is!  Don’t be fooled, loved ones, by the false teachers that surround you—search the scriptures and guard your heart, for there are many who would lead you astray.  Be like the noble Bereans (Acts 17:10-11) and do not follow the lies of those who would manipulate God’s word to serve their own ends.

“For this is no empty word for you, but it is your life.  And in this word your days will be made long upon the ground which you are passing over the Jordan to inherit there.” (Deuteronomy 32:47)

Release to the Captives: Isaiah 61:1e

“To preach release to the captives…”

Isaiah 61:1e


            In the context of Isaiah’s ministry, this statement would have had a very specific promise, recognizing that at this point in history, the northern Kingdom of Israel has fallen and the people had been taken and scattered throughout the Assyrian Empire.  In addition, the southern Kingdom would, within 100 years, fall as well.  To those who would hear this prophesy, that would speak of the hope of the return of the people from exile with the advent of the Messiah’s coming.  When Jesus spoke these words of his own ministry, the people would have responded in a similar way, not only thinking of the return of the various Jewish people who had been scatted all over the Roman Empire, but also of the lifting of Roman oppression in the Holy Land.  Yet, Jesus had an entirely different bondage in view—one that was far more dangerous than the taxation and oversight of the Romans.  Jesus was dealing with our bondage to sin. 

The language used by Isaiah echoes this great promise that Jesus has come to fulfill.  The word that we translate as “release” or “liberty” is the Hebrew word, rArD> (deror), which specifically has in view the release that God commanded in conjunction with the Sabbatical Year and the Year of Jubilee (which is where verse 2 picks up—also see Leviticus 25:10).  Essentially, God commanded that every 7th year was to be a Sabbath year set aside for himself.  During this year the fields would be left fallow, Jewish slaves would be set free, and debts would be considered satisfied.  In the Year of Jubilee (every 50th year), even the family lands that had been sold to pay off debts would be returned to their rightful owners for the purpose of preserving the family in the land.  It was to be a time of celebration and deliverance from economic and social bondage.  Yet, do not miss the purpose of the Year of Jubilee and Sabbatical years, or you will miss what Isaiah is doing by referencing it and you will miss what Jesus is doing by applying it to his own Messianic ministry. 

Leviticus 25, a chapter devoted to the release that was to be associated with the Sabbatical Year and with the Year of Jubilee, ends with God’s explanation for instituting these events:

“Because, to me, the sons of Israel are servants;

they are my servants which I brought out of the land of Egypt.

I am Yahweh, your God.”

(Leviticus 25:55)

In other words, God is saying that the reason for these Jubilees is because the people of Israel belong to no one other than to himself.  He did not share them with Egypt, but delivered them, and he will not share them with those who would exploit them in their own land.  God’s people are God’s servants and a perpetual bondage means that he is forced to share with one who is an illegitimate owner.  God brought his people from Egypt to be his own; he is not going to let them go.

            Do these words not also ring true with the language of our Lord? 

“All that the Father gives me will come to me; I will definitely not cast out.”

(John 6:37)

“Also I give them eternal life, and they shall never be destroyed; no one will snatch them from my hand.”

(John 10:28)

Yet, this language echoes even more strongly with the language of the writer of Hebrews:

“Remember those who are bound as ones bound with them; and the ones who are tormented, as they are in the body.  Let marriage be precious to all, and the marriage bed be morally pure; for the sexually immoral and adulterous God will judge.  Let your lifestyle not be covetous, being content with what is at your disposal.  For he has said: “I will never send you back, nor will I ever leave you behind.”  Thus we can say with certainty, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?”  (Hebrews 13:3-6)

Okay, let’s put the puzzle pieces together in light of what the writer of Hebrews teaches.  We know from Leviticus that God has delivered his people from their bondage in Egypt for the purpose of making them his own servants.  In light of that, God instituted the Sabbatical Year and Year of Jubilee in Israel’s governmental law for the purpose of ensuring that the people would not sink back into bondage.  The writer of Hebrews builds on this idea and asks us as Christians to look at several things that will lead us into different kinds of bondage.  We are to remember believers who are in actual chains—why?  Because God hears the cries of his persecuted people (Exodus 2:23-25).  We are to preserve the sanctity of our marriages—why?  Because in marriage, one man and one woman are bound covenantally together to the point that they are seen by God as one flesh (Genesis 2:24).  Thus, this binding must always be a holy one—one that does not detract from the couple’s ability to serve God, but instead aids it (1 Corinthians 7:2-7, 26-28).  We are not to defile our marriage bed with sexual immorality or adultery, why?  Because not only does this sinful activity ruin the holy nature of the marriage, but it also enslaves the person who entered into such sin to the sin and to the one with whom he or she has committed said immorality and adultery (1 Corinthians 6:16).  Our lifestyles must not be covetous (more than just the love of money, but the 10th commandment includes coveting your neighbor’s house, wife, servants, and/or property—Exodus 20:17).  Why?  Because this places you in bondage to the lust of material things—things that belong to this world, and not to the things of God (1 John 2:15-17).  All of these things that the writer of Hebrews mentions are things that binds us in servitude and slavery to things or persons other than being bound in service to God.

            Thus, it is in this context that the writer of Hebrews quotes Jesus as saying, “I will never send you back, nor will I ever leave you behind.”  While this is likely a reference to Jesus’ promise to his Apostles in John 14:18, it picks up the language of the passages quoted above from John above as well as other promises of Jesus that he will be with us always, even to the end of eternity (Matthew 28:20).  All of these statements must be understood in the context of God’s calling of us to be his own.  Why will Jesus not allow us to be left behind?  Because in being left behind, we are left in bondage to the things of this world, to sin, and ultimately to death.  As the Apostle Paul writes:

“You were bought with a price; do not become slaves to men.”

(1 Corinthians 7:23)

            So, we return back to Isaiah 61:1 and to Jesus’ proclamation that he is the fulfillment of this prophesy (Luke 4:21).  Our Lord came to proclaim, and thus the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims, that we are released from our bondage to the world—Egypt has no more claims on us; sin has no more claims on us; the kingdoms of the world can do nothing to us for we are eternally bound to the risen Christ.  Oh, beloved, how is it that we so often bind ourselves to the world even in light of this great truth!  Loved ones, let us live in service of Christ, for he is our only master—the chains of this world have been loosed, and we have found our freedom in him!

Redeemed how I love to proclaim it!

Redeemed by the blood of the lamb;

Redeemed through his infinite mercy,

His child and forever I am.

-Fanny Crosby


The Shattered Heart: Isaiah 61:1d

“He has sent me to bind the heart which has been shattered…”

Isaiah 61:1d


            When I read this part of the verse, my mind cannot help but to think back to the promise that was made by God earlier in Isaiah 35:4:

“Say to those whose hearts are hasty; be strong and you must not fear.

Behold, your God of vengeance will come in the recompense of God—

He will come and save you.”

And indeed, now, those whose hearts have caused them to run ahead, chasing after their own plans and dreams instead of chasing after holiness, will find that God, in his might and in his power, will come to save them—save them by sending his Son, Jesus Christ.  And Christ will be the one who takes their hearts, as broken, war-torn, and shattered as they are, and bind them back together.  Note the power of this great and wonderful promise, Jesus is not simply one to put back together a heart that has been fractured, like a bone that is broken might be set in a splint or a cast, but the Hebrew word used here is derived from the Hebrew verb, rb;v’ (shavar), which means “to shatter.”  Any human doctor can mend a fractured bone, but it takes God to mend that which has been shattered beyond recognition.  And note that when the Hebrews were speaking about the “heart,” they were not speaking simply in terms of one’s emotional well-being or of one’s passions as we often do; when the Hebrews spoke of the heart, they had in mind the intellect and the personality—that which makes you, you. And this is the work of Christ.  Jesus is more than a family counselor or a psychologist helping you to get your emotions in check.  And he does more than to nurture bruised egos—Jesus mends lives!  And Jesus does far more than mend lives that have been beaten around and bruised by the world, but he mends lives that have been blasted away, shattered, demolished, and utterly crushed, and he restores us whole!

            I am reminded of the story of Humpty Dumpty.  Indeed, all of the kings horses and men could do nothing to patch that shattered egg and to restore him to strength.  Yet, Christ is far more than a servant of a human king; he is the King of Kings, Son of the Living God and creator of the universe.  Indeed, there is no life, no person who is too broken and shattered that he is beyond the ability of our Lord, Jesus Christ to put back together.  Yet, there is another difference.  When Jesus puts a life back together, he does not simply restore one to health, but he restores one slowly into the image of himself—we are remade not for a fallen world, but Christ’s remaking is designed to prepare us for glory!  What a wonderful promise that we find in our great and glorious Lord!

“He is the one who heals a shattered heart;

and the one who binds their sorrows.”

Psalm 147:3


Into Thy gracious hands I fall,

And with the arms of faith embrace;

O King of glory, hear my call!

O raise me, heal me by Thy grace!

-Wolfgang Dessler

Good Tidings: Isaiah 61:1c

“to herald good tidings to the meek”

Isaiah 61:1c


            These words should immediately bring to mind the language of the angels in proclaiming the good news before the shepherds (Luke 2:10).  Indeed it was the role of the angels to proclaim the birth of the one who would bring such good news and glad tidings to the world—who would emboss onto the history of mankind the great hope and promise of redemption that would be brought by this Jesus.  In Christ, men and women no longer need to live in darkness and fear, but could dwell forever in Christ’s marvelous light.  Indeed, there are no better tidings than the reality that God has come into the world to dwell with men, to bear the sins of those whose faith is in him, and to face the mighty wrath of God on behalf of his own.  The one who needed no redeeming came to earth, took on flesh to identify with us as his people, and did the mighty work of redemption on behalf of we who needed redeeming, yet could not even begin to do that work on our own.

            And it is important to see the way in which this message of good tidings is proclaimed to those who are meek.  It’s root is the word rv;B’ (bashar), which means, “to bear good news.”  Yet this verb is found in what is called the Piel stem in the Hebrew language.  The Piel stem is used in Hebrew to point to a repeated action.  In other words, the idea of the good news borne or heralded by Christ is not just a one-time deal, but it is good news that is repeatedly proclaimed in the hearts and in the lives of God’s people.  How true this is indeed!  The good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is news that bears repeating in the lives of those who know him and before the waiting ears of those who do not.  How often God’s people need to be reminded of the wonderful good news of the hope that is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. 

            But look at to whom this proclamation is directed.  It is directed to the meek or to the poor, depending on your translation.  The term that Isaiah uses here is wn”[‘ (anaw), which is related to the word ynI[‘ (ani).  Literally, wn”[‘ (anaw) refers to one who is bowed down or dejected, one who has been humiliated and broken under the oppression of outside forces.  Its cousin, ynI[‘ (ani), picks up the idea of one who has become poor and afflicted as a result of oppression.  It is not to the proud or to the powerful that this message is proclaimed, but to the poor, to those who have suffered under the oppression of the world and under the oppression of sin and who understand that there is no place to look for a redeemer other than to God.  This language is reminiscent of the Israelites in Egypt, crying out for God to deliver them from Pharaoh’s hand (Exodus 2:23).  And indeed, it is this idea that Jesus picks up on in his Sermon on the Mount when he says, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

            The proud, the arrogant, the haughty, those trusting in their own strength or righteousness, these are not the marks of those being drawn to God faith (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).  Indeed, the first step in coming to faith is genuine, heart-felt repentance, and in repentance there is no room for the pride of men.  Loved ones, do not picture yourself approaching God with trumpets blaring and shouts of acclamation; do not picture yourself because you have earned an audience with the Almighty King.  Understand that we come before him on our knees, pleading forgiveness and mercy, and in His undying grace, to all who come into His presence through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ, to them—to us—he has given us eternal life, no longer seeing us as rebels, but adopting us as sons and daughters.  Loved ones, oh, what a day of rejoicing that will be!

“See the kind of love that the father has given to us, in order that we might be called children of God; and we are.  Because of this, the world does not know us:  because it did not know him.” (1 John 3:1)


“And as it says in Hosea:

I will call those who are not my people, ‘my people.’

And she who is not beloved, ‘beloved.’

And it will be in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called, “Sons of the Living God.”

(Romans 9:25-26)


Because Yahweh has Anointed Me: Isaiah 61:1b

“Because Yahweh has anointed me…”

Isaiah 61:1b


Oh, what an amazing statement this is in itself, that this Messiah is not one anointed by man, but by the covenantal God, Yahweh, himself!  How much more significant this becomes when you realize that this construction is only ever used three times in the Old Testament.  It is used first in 1 Samuel 10:1 of God’s anointing of Saul, it is used secondly here, of the Messiah, in Isaiah, and thirdly, it is used of Jehu, who destroyed the house of Ahaz (2 Chronicles 22:7).  There are many instances where God asks a prophet or a priest to anoint someone as he did with Samuel’s anointing of David—but these are the only instances where Yahweh is said to have anointed.

There are several things that we can learn from this.  In each case, this was a kingly anointing.  Saul was the very first human king over Israel—Jesus was the last.  Saul was rejected by God because he did not execute God’s judgment upon Agag, the king of the Amalekites—one of the great persecutor of Israel.  In contrast to Saul, Jehu was anointed king for the express purpose of executing God’s judgment upon the house of Ahaz (Ahaziah) in Judah and upon the house of Ahab in Israel—both kings which promoted pagan idolatry.  Of course, Jehu’s downfall is that he did not go far enough in the purging of Israel of its idolatry and wickedness.  Christ is the greater fulfillment of that which both Saul and Jehu failed to complete.  Jesus is the greater king that not only redeems his people, but also promises complete and final judgment upon God’s enemies—upon all those who would devote themselves to idolatry. 

The second thing that we can learn from this is the very nature of the Kingship of the Messiah.  The verb, “to anoint” in Hebrew is the word xv;m’ (mashach) and is the very word from which we get the word “Messiah,” literally meaning, “the anointed one.”  Not only then, is Isaiah pointing toward the very reality that this promised Messiah will be God himself, but also that he will fulfill the promise that God gave to David, in that a king will be raised up from his household who would have an eternal kingdom (2 Samuel 7:12-13). 

Thirdly, it is an ever-present reminder of the nature of Jesus’ Kingship.  Jesus himself said that he did not come to peace but division (Luke 12:51).  John the Baptist describes Jesus as one who comes as with a winnowing fork to separate the wheat from the tares (Matthew 3:12).  And what is the purpose of all this division?  It is salvation (John 12:47).  How is it that both can be true?  The wrath of God being poured out upon his enemies is the means by which God saves the world for he brings her to purity only after he has separated the distillates out of her in the refining process.  Refinement is done with fire, thus fire is brought by Christ to both redeem and destroy—both go hand in hand.  In the case of Saul and Jehu—the destruction of God’s enemies ended their idolatrous influence (at least for a time).  In the case of Jesus, the destruction of God’s enemies means a promise of the eternal end to the idolatrous influence of the world upon our lives—oh praise be to God that our Lord would come in this way!

The Spirit of the Lord Most High: Isaiah 61:1a

This passage is one that is very familiar to us because of Jesus’ use of it during his first sermon back in his hometown of Nazareth.  Notice the unambiguous nature of this statement—“the Spirit of the Lord Most High, Yahweh, is upon me.   To begin with, when x;Wr (ruach), which can mean “spirit” or “wind”, is used in construct with the personal name of God (Yahweh) and is used in the terms of being placed upon someone, it is consistently used in terms of God’s power, and that power being placed upon an individual to complete God’s design.  It is used of Othniel (Judges 3:10), Samson (Judges 14:6), of David (1 Samuel 16:13), and of Elijah (1 Kings 18:12).  Most importantly, it is used of Jesus at his baptism (Luke 3:22).  How this shines light on passages like Colossians 2:9, which speaks of the fullness of God being pleased to dwell in Christ.  How so it is that the Spirit rushed on these Old Testament saints in part and for a time, yet came upon Christ in full and remained upon him for eternity.  What is more is that same Spirit rushed upon Peter and the other apostles at the time of Pentecost and likewise remained upon him for the length of their ministry.  And that same Spirit—the third member of the divine Trinity has shown himself to be pleased to dwell in you and within me both for the purpose of accomplishing God’s work in this world and for the purpose of drawing you and I more closely to himself in intimate fellowship.  This is not a change of state for Jesus, but it is a promise.  It is a promise that in Christ all of the promises of deliverance that are contained within the words of the Old Testament find their fullness in Christ and in his work.  And it is a promise that it is the very Spirit of God that will bring about God’s designs in your life and mine.  What a wonderful way for Jesus to announce his ministry to the community that thought they knew him best.  Oh, how much greater a sin it was for these townsfolk—those who knew Jesus from childhood—to reject him in the way that they did.

Yet, we must not stop there.  It is not only the x;Wr (ruach) of Yahweh, but we are told that this is the x;Wr (ruach) of the yn”doa] (adonay) of Yahweh.  The Hebrew word !Ada’ (adon) means lord in the generic sense (much like we would use the word “sir” in English as a term of respect), but when you add the Qamets-yod ending (the “ay” sound), that intensifies the word, which communicates the idea that this Lord is the most high of all Lords—a term never employed of anyone in the Old Testament but God.  Finally, we should not neglect to note the covenantal name of God, Yahweh, that is employed in this Statement.  We can be left with no doubt of what Isaiah is seeking to communicate within this passage.  The messiah of whom he speaks will have the fullness of the covenant God of Israel upon himself—that he is the fullness of God—and that is a statement that can only be made of God.  This messiah of whom he speaks will be, and can only be, the covenant God of Israel, having taken on flesh and come to redeem his people.  It points to and can only point to Jesus Christ, the very Son of the living God.  By declaring that this prophesy was fulfilled in himself as he did before the people in the synagogue of Nazareth, he declared himself to be none less than God in the flesh.  

The Horn of Salvation


“and he raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David, his servant.”

(Luke 1:69)


The theme of the “horn of salvation” has important Old Testament Biblical-Theological implications, yet, before we delve back into the Old Testament history of this language, it is important that we set the context of the passage and make several observations:

  1. Note that this statement is part of the prophesy of Zechariah at his son, John’s, birth.  It is prophetic in its scope, but note the use of the past tense with the verb “raised.”  This is what is called the “prophetic past,” and it is a common element in Hebrew prophesy.  Rather than speak of what God will do in the future tense (which the prophets do as well), the prophets speak of what God will do in the future but use past tense verbs to communicate the absolute nature of this event coming to pass.  In other words, the prophet is saying that we can be so sure that God will fulfill this event that we can speak as if it has already taken place even though it is yet to take place.  Such language is always used with prophesies that are unconditional and irrevocable.  Here, Zechariah is prophesying about the reality of God having fulfilled all of his covenantal promises in the coming of Jesus—John being the forerunner; Zechariah is certain that even in the coming of this child in the womb, God would fulfill all of his plans through his Messiah and there was nothing that the enemies of God’s plan could do about it.  Even the might of the Roman Empire is but a bug to be squashed under the heel of our God!
  2. Note for whom this promise is given:  for “us.”  How is this, when the coming of Christ will bring about the in-grafting of gentiles?  Judaism was never meant to be an isolationist religion—a central temple, yes, but isolationist, no.  They were to bring in converts from all of the nations, yet rarely worked to do so.  One of the great Messianic promises is that this Messiah would bring in gentiles to the fold, that people from every tribe and nation would come to faith and be part of God’s covenant people.  See the prophesies of Zechariah 14, for example, which speak of all the nations coming together to celebrate the festival of Booths together as one people—signaled by the coming of the Messiah.  Even as far back as the creation account, where Adam and Eve were commanded to reproduce and fill the world with their kind (Genesis 1:28)—was this not for a purpose?  Certainly, it was to subdue the creation so that God would be worshiped in every corner of the earth.  This same commandment God gave to Noah and his children (Genesis 9:7), yet, in their sin they settled in Babel and God confused their language to force them into obedience.  This is the great downfalls of mankind—refusing to give proper and right worship to God the creator—in Christ, once again, God is hardening the hearts of the Jewish people to bring in the gentiles—forcing them into obedience to the command to spread God’s worship throughout the earth.  Thus the promise of the coming Messiah is for “us” from the Jewish perspective, for it is God fulfilling his plan for them.
  3. “in the house of David:”  This communicates the agency by which God will fulfill this promise—by the line of David.  We might as easily translate this Greek preposition (ejn) as “by” or “through.”  It is not so much that the promise will be fulfilled within the house of David, but it will be fulfilled through one who is from said line.  Note too that John the Baptist was from the line of Aaron, not the line of David.  There is absolutely no confusion in Zechariah’s mind as to just what is going on with his son.  It is interesting to see the change in Zechariah that has taken place in these past 9 months of his life.  In the earlier account, he is seen as humble, but doubting God’s promise.  Here he is boldly proclaiming the truth about what God is doing in the lives of the people of Israel.  Sometimes, when God silences our lips from speaking, we can finally hear the truth that God is speaking to us through his word.  We may be moving into some degree of speculation here, but I don’t think that it is too unlikely that Zechariah would have spent much of his imposed silence seeking out God’s face in prayer and the study of the scriptures—perhaps we would all do well to experience such a trial.
  4. Finally, note the last clause in the passage.  Normally, our English Bibles translate this word as “servant” (as I have translated above).  Yet, in Greek, it is the term paivß (pais), not douvloß (doulos) as one might expect.  The word paivß (pais) is related to the word pai/dion (paidion) and can also be translated as “child,” which is important to note.  In speaking of one’s servant in language that would denote kinship, it communicates the idea that there is a significant level of affection that is found between the Master and the servant.  A good example of this kind of affection is found in the account of Jesus’ healing of the Centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13).  Were this an ordinary servant, why would the Centurion have gone to such trouble to see the servant healed?  Certainly it would have been a sign of disgrace for a Roman Centurion to go to a Hebrew Rabbi for healing.  Clearly, there is great affection within this relationship.  In the case of Zechariah’s prophesy, this concept of affection is especially pertinent.  David is one whom scripture describes as being a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) and it is to David that the promise comes to establish an eternal kingship (2 Samuel 7:12-16).  Thus, we might even go as far to translate this clause, “in the house of David, his beloved servant” or even, “in the house of David, his child.”  Either conveys the idea that Zechariah is communicating.


With the context of Zechariah’s prophesy before us, let us look at the passages that also communicate this idea:


  • 2 Samuel 22:3.  At the end of David’s life, he composes a song of praise to God that we find recorded here, in chapter 22 of Second Samuel.  David sings of God’s fullness and of his provision even in the face of certain destruction.  At the beginning of this song of praise, David uses a series of parallel statements that communicate the nature of God’s deliverance.  God is described as deliverer, rock, refuge, shield, horn of my salvation, stronghold, refuge (a second time), and savior.  What can be said about all of these images?

1.     They are all defensive images—this speaks primarily of God’s redemption and not of his judgment upon his foes.

2.     They are all passive images in terms of David.  One is defended within the fortress or by the high and firm rock.  One takes refuge within these safe places, the places do not move from here to there.

3.     One may find rest in all of these places.  One of the great themes in the Old Testament is that of seeking rest from one’s enemies.  David is saying that as tumultuous as his life has been, rest has been given to him in the refuge of God alone.

4.     The Hebrew term for “horn” that is used here is the term !r<q, (keren), and is normally used to describe an animal’s horn or something made in that general shape.  In particular, it is also this term that is used to describe the four horns of the altar of burnt offering (Exodus 38:2).  There are a number of things that are particularly interesting about this connection.

o      While we don’t know the origin of the tradition, it seems that in Ancient Israel, people held the belief that clinging to the horns of the altar would provide them sanctuary and refuge from their oppressors.  In 1 Kings 1:49-53, we find Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, running and clinging to the horns of the altar for protection.  Soon afterward, as recorded in 1 Kings 2:28-35), we also find Joab doing the same.  It seems that Solomon puts an end to this tradition, for while he pardons Adonijah, he has Joab slain while still clinging to the altar’s horns.

o      In a similar vein, though this is a negative example, when God speaks through the prophet Amos, commanding him to speak of the judgment that is coming upon the people, one thing he states is that he will “cut off” the horns of the altar at the time of said judgment, implying that the presence of the horns on the altar was at least symbolic of God’s protection for his people—that in this judgment that is coming, there will be no place of refuge for the people to go (see Amos 3:14).

Note that this is not the term that refers to a musical horn made from the horn of an animal—that word is rp;Av (shophar) and the two words are not interchangeable.  

  • Psalm 18:2.  This is the psalm that is based on the Psalm above, written by David as a praise to God for deliverance from his enemies, thus, even though the language varies slightly, the idea remains the same, the language of the “horn of salvation” is again used to describe taking refuge in the Lord.


Thus, how are we to understand Jesus as the “horn of salvation”?  The answer should be fairly obvious at this point; the horn of salvation is a symbol of a place wherein one can find refuge from the assaults of this world—the greatest enemy we face being sin and temptation to sin.  And, indeed, that is exactly the context in which Zechariah is speaking.  In Luke 1:68, Zechariah speaks of God having redeemed his people, then in verse 69, he speaks of that redemption in terms of God having raised up the horn of salvation.  As the praise song goes, “He is our refuge in days of trouble, he is our shelter in times of storm, He is our tower in the day of sorrow, our fortress in the time of war.”  Oh, beloved, God is a strong fortress wherein which we can rest from the oppressors of this sinful world—he is our horn of salvation, clinging to which we cannot be destroyed and our sin before God is forgiven—we are truly redeemed.  What a wonderful promise that God has given us in Jesus Christ!  As David also wrote:

“Serve Yahweh with fear and rejoice with trembling!  

Kiss the Son lest he become angry and you perish in the way! 

For his anger will soon burn! 

Blessed are those who take refuge in him!”

(Psalm 2:11-12)


How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!

What more can he say than to you he hath said,

To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

-From John Rippon’s selection of hymns


And in the spirit of Zechariah’s prophesy of the coming Christ:

Say to those who are fearful hearted,

‘Do not be afraid,’

‘The Lord, your God, is strong, with his mighty arm,’

‘when you call on his name,’

‘He will come and save…’

-Fitts & Sadler




“He Will Come and Save You” by Bob Fitts and Gary Sadler.