December 25, 2015

Reasons to Rejoice

Jeremiah 49:1–39, Romans 11:25–12:8, Proverbs 26:12–28

Today’s devotional book, “Connect the Testaments” did not connect today with the birth of Jesus Christ. I do and decided to picture it with a wreath, the circle of green that symbolizes eternal life. This is why Jesus came, to make visible our Almighty and Eternal God, and to bring to us the hope and promise of living with Him forever. Indeed, this is a Joyful Day!

I found some joy also in the days of Jeremiah, even though he speaks to the nations about God’s chastening for their sin. After a long description of what would happen to Ammon, Jeremiah said: “Behold, I will bring terror upon you, declares the Lord God of hosts, from all who are around you, and you shall be driven out, every man straight before him, with none to gather the fugitives. But afterward I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 49:5–6)

It was the same for Elam, east of Babylon. Jeremiah said: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the mainstay of their might. And I will bring upon Elam the four winds from the four quarters of heaven. And I will scatter them to all those winds, and there shall be no nation to which those driven out of Elam shall not come. I will terrify Elam before their enemies and before those who seek their life. I will bring disaster upon them, my fierce anger, declares the Lord. I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them, and I will set my throne in Elam and destroy their king and officials, declares the Lord. But in the latter days I will restore the fortunes of Elam, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 49:35–39)

How can this judgment then restoration happen except that God hates sin, but deeply loves sinners?

Solomon describes the sin that seems to me the most insidious, the sin of deceit and hypocrisy: “Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling. A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” (Proverbs 26:24–28)

Yet God is gracious even to hypocrites (which most of us are or have been). He left heaven, came to earth as a man, even beginning life here as a vulnerable embryo. He grew up, loved and served sinners, then went to the cross to pay our penalty for sin. Then, the ultimate proof of His deity, He rose from the dead, appeared to 500 or more, and with joy ascended to heaven with a promise that He would return.

He left us with an invitation to follow Him: in being born again, in growing in our faith, in dying to sin and self, and eventually rising to the gates of heaven where we will enter in and live with Him for eternity.

In the meantime, He gave us His instructions for life and His gifts to serve others. We are to be humble, people of integrity, not comparing ourselves with others or strutting about because of this amazing grace. Paul said it this way: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them . . . .” (Romans 12:3–6)

This gracious God generously gives us gifts us to serve one another for the same reason He restores nations; He hates our sin but loves us so much that He died so we might live. That mission began in a stable, included a cross, and culminated in a resurrection with an offer of the greatest gift of all — His life, powerful to save us for all eternity.

Merry Christmas!

1 comment:

KathyB. said...

So beautifully said. Amen sister, and blessed and merry Christmas to you.