God So Loved
Advent Day 24
John 3:16 ESV
2 Chronicles 20:18-20 ESV
Luke 1:11-16 ESV
Matthew 21:33-44 ESV
Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV
I don’t know about you, but it’s difficult for me to think about what Jesus went through when he came to earth. I mean his early years would have been okay because He had great parents, but as I read scripture I wonder about all the criticism and pain He suffered as an adult.
Life expectancy in 1st Century Palestine was short and we only hear about Jesus’ Mother Mary by the time He was grown. Nothing is said about Joseph by the time Jesus started His ministry.
Early in the Gospel of John we are told, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That tells us even though God knew it would be difficult on earth for Jesus, He came anyway.
God’s love was the motivational factor for everything. Even in the Christmas Story we need to consider the circumstances leading up to Jesus’ arrival.
The time of the prophets began with Jonah in 810 B.C. and ended with Malachi in 397 B.C. There were six prophets of Israel, four prophets of Judah, three prophets during the captivity, and three prophets after the people returned to Jerusalem.
We know the people of God were told by good King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:18-20, “Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.”
When the kings and the people listened to the word of the Lord they prospered but when they turned to their own way they did not prosper. During the time of the prophets there were 33 evil Kings and only 5 good Kings (https://www.thejenkinsinstitute.com/blog/2015/5/5-good-kings-33-evil-kings-and-7-lessons). It seems astonishing that the people only had five good kings to lead them!
After the last prophet of the Lord died (Malachi) there was silence for 400 hundred years (https://www.gotquestions.org/400-years-of-silence.html).
Then…John the Baptist was born.
He was the forerunner to the Christ sent by God.
In Luke 1:11-16 we learn about John the Baptist’s father Zechariah who was a priest in the Temple, “there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”
It’s also important to note that John the Baptist’s mother Elizabeth was a cousin to Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
The children of Israel had waited and waited for the One who was promised. John the Baptist announced His coming. The children of Israel had endured hardships. They had many many evil kings and only a few good kings. God sent the prophets one by one.
Essentially in Matthew 21:33-44 there is a parable that tells the story about what had happened, “There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
Notice the Master of the house planted the vineyard. That would have been very unusual for the Master to actually do the hands on work. The Master took great care with every aspect of the building. He planted. He built a fence around it. He dug a vine press. Then he built a tower.
He went to another country but before leaving he leased it to tenants.
When it was time for harvest he sent his servants to get the fruit. The tenants first beat one servant. Another went and they killed him. Then they stoned a servant. The Master continued to send servants but all of them were treated the same way. Finally, the Master sent his son and the tenants decided to kill the son so they could take his inheritance.
It never occurred to the tenants that there would come a time when the Master would give His land to others who would produce good fruit because the tenants had completely disregarded the Master.
in the parable that Jesus told God was the Master and Israel was the vineyard. The tenants were the religious leaders and the servants were the prophets God had sent. Finally, the Master’s Son was Jesus, the cornerstone who was rejected.
The parable of the vineyard is God’s story with His people.
We read in Hebrews 1:1-4, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”
You know what’s totally remarkable about God and the story of all God did?
He did it ALL for Love. Because God loves us, He kept giving and giving. God loved the world so much that even after the Kings were mostly bad and the Prophets were beaten and disregarded and killed, God sent His Son who died so we might live.
Even KNOWING that, God sent His only Son who died so we might live.
Spiritual Practice: Jesus died for You
Someone once Sid to me when I was young that if I would have been the only one, Jesus would have died for me. It took time for me to grasp the magnitude of that statement, but once I accepted it as truth, I really felt like God loved ME. Let yourself feel God’s love for You.
In God, Deborah