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The Messiah Series

The Messiah Series

Mr. Handel, Where’d you Find that Verse?

December 1, 2017

If you’re like me, you’ve always assumed that the Scripture used in Handel’s Messiah came from the King James Version of the Bible, simply because of when Handel lived. So imagine my surprise when I went to study the next section of Scripture and couldn’t find that verse! I found something similar, but it wasn’t exactly the same. Did I have the right verse? Was I missing something? Misspelling something in my word searches? What was going on? It turns out, the problem was right there in my assumption.

Because the very next section of the Messiah that I was working on was only 37 seconds long, I’d decided to study it in conjunction with the one following. Both are sung by the alto and seem to go together. That was when I stumbled upon my dilemma. The song says,

“O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain: O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!”

But when I started searching, the closest thing I could find was this,

“O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up on a high mountain; [b]O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold, your God!”

Which comes from the ASV (American Standard Version). The ASV has quite an interesting history of its own, but it wasn’t published until 1901. So if it wasn’t published until after 1900 and Handel died in 1759, what was he using?

It turns out he was using the King James Version of the Bible. Just like I thought. But the KJV hadn’t quite reached its final state yet. The version we use today is the fourth revision, completed in 1769, twenty-seven years after the Messiah was composed. So today, our Isaiah 40:9 reads,

“O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!”

They primary difference in the two translations is the addressee. In the first translation, the command is to the one bearing the message to Zion, Jerusalem, and Judah. In the final translation, Jerusalem is given the message directly to go to the mountains, lift up its voice with strength, not be afraid, and declare to all the cities of Judah (of which Jerusalem is a part) to Behold their God.

And this last part, is the one thing that is most important and unchanging between the two versions, Israel, at the appointed time, would behold their God in a way no man had ever seen Him before.

When we live is important. How we participate in the time we live is important. We don’t always get to see the end of what begins in our day. Just as those living in the days of Isaiah did not get to see the coming of the Messiah and as Handel (and those who helped compile the Scripture for his music) did not live to see the King James Version of the Bible completed. Things will begin in our day that we may never see completed, but that does not lessen the importance of our part in them. Isaiah remained faithful to declare the word that God had given him. Handel was faithful to proclaim through his music the glory of the Messiah that had come. Today, just as Isaiah 40:8 says, their work continues to bring glory to God, not because of who they were but because:

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”

It is no less important that we finish our course well, even if we never see the work completed. Whatever God has given you to do today, do it with all of your strength, even if you never get to see the end of it. Do it for His glory. Don’t be afraid. Lift up your voice. Lift up your eyes. Behold, your God.

“In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:6

This year, I’m doing something I’ve never done before, completely unplanned. I’m going through Handel’s Messiah and meditating on the Scripture used there. For accountability’s sake, I’ll be sharing it here and on Facebook. If you’d like to join me for this series and other updates, simply fill out the form below.

 

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The Messiah Series

The Day of His Appearing

November 22, 2017

“For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.” Haggai 2:6,7

“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 3:1

“But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:” Malachi 3:2

“And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.” Malachi 3:3

 

At Christmas we think of that babe in the manger—the peaceful, redemption-bringing, grace and love outpouring, first coming of the Lord Jesus. And yet, one of the longest standing Christmas traditions, Handel’s Messiah, points us not back but forward to the day of His second appearing. While he came to bestow grace and salvation at his first appearing, Handel along with the prophets he was quoting, paint an amazing picture of the power, glory, and judgment which will accompany Christ at His second coming.

 

The Earth Shaken

Late one night, I lay in bed, nearly asleep when a powerful shuddering shattered the stillness of my bedroom. As though a 70 mph wind and a massive truck had collided with my house at the same time, my bed jolted, the walls groaned, and glass items clattered. Then, everything was still again. At first, I thought I was crazy. Had I imagined it? I knew I hadn’t, but what was it? Where had that one, powerful gust of wind come from? Slowly realization came. That was not wind. That was an earthquake.

It was all over the news the next morning. Everyone was talking about it. We were four hours from the epicenter. Damage here was almost non-existent, but those of us who were awake, who felt it, certainly took notice. How much more will the earth take note when God shakes it in judgment? The small earthquake I experienced will be but a faint trembling in comparison. Handel reminds us that this is the coming of the One in whom we delight. He will come in judgment, but He will come to fill His temple with His glory.

 

Who Shall Stand

Still, a question rings clear, “Who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appeareth?” How do we stand before God who has come to judge the earth as a refiner purifies gold with fire or as a fuller fulls cloth with the miserable methods of his trade?

Fulling was the process by which cloth, especially wool, was purified of pollutants and made thicker. It involved trampling the cloth in a variety of harsh substances, including human urine, until soaps were developed. This was how oils and dirt were cleansed out of the fabric. Then the cloth was hammered so that the barbs of the fibers matted together, like felt, to create greater strength and waterproofing. Fulling was not a pleasant process either for the fuller or for the fabric—but neither is God’s judgment.

As the prophets look forward to the second coming of the Lord they ask, “Who can stand?” Who could ever bear up under the heat of God’s wrath, the treading of His feet, or the blow of His hammer?

 

He Shall Purify

The goal of both the refiner and the fuller is not to destroy but rather to make clean. This is the goal of the judgment foretold by Haggai and Malachi: To make clean the sons of Levi that they might offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness. He wants not to crush them but rather to restore the relationship. But how are we made clean? How do we stand not only in the face of His judgment but merely in His presence.

 

The Hope of Christmas

Without the first coming of the Christ, there is no hope at the second coming of Christ. Without His life, His death, and His resurrection we are in a helpless, hopeless state. There is no redemption. But He did come! He did take our sins upon Himself as He hung on that cross. He bore the wrath of God, the shaking of the earth, the forsaking of the Father, the darkness of death, and the agony of Hell—so that we might be made clean, so that we might stand in HIS righteousness at the day of His appearing and have life through His resurrection.

This, as we have already said more than once, is the hope of Christmas. Not the joy of gifts under the tree and family gathered together around the table. Not the beauty of a snowy world outside our window and lights strung brightly about the neighborhood. Not the sleigh bells or silver bells or jingle bells. Not angles or carols or Christmas pageants, not the Nutcracker or Handle’s Messiah. The Light and Hope and Joy of Christmas is the desire of nations in whom we delight—Christ.

 

This year, I’m doing something I’ve never done before, completely unplanned. I’m going through Handel’s Messiah and meditating on the Scripture used there. For accountability’s sake, I’ll be sharing it here and on Facebook. If you’d like to join me for this series and other updates, simply fill out the form below.

 

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The Messiah Series

Revealing God’s Glory

November 17, 2017

“And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” Isaiah 40:5

Surprises are one of my favorite parts of Christmas, and revealing the surprise ranks right up there with the surprise itself. Many years ago, I was given tickets to come home from Russia to be with my family for Christmas. It was such a blessing. I only told my brother-in-law who promised to pick me up at the airport so we could surprise the rest of the family. Eventually, because of the timing of the flights, he had to tell my sister, so she wouldn’t wonder why he was sneaking out in the middle of the night. We didn’t tell my parents or my youngest sister.

I arrived at midnight, spent the night with my sister’s family, and the following day we went to look at a house they were considering renting. They took videos and told mom and dad that they would bring them over, so they could see what the house looked like. While they were getting the camera ready to record what was about to happen, I hid in the car. Then I slipped in the front door and walked into the kitchen when they were least expecting it.

I’ll never forget my mom’s wide-eyed reaction. “Rachel! Rachel! Rachel!” she screamed. Then my dad realized what was going on and had a similar reaction, though in a much more subdued manner. We laughed and cried and hugged and laughed some more. But the surprises weren’t over.

The next evening, my sister and her boyfriend came home from Minnesota where they were both attending college. I hid in the bathroom while they drug their suitcases in and while my sister gave my mother yet another surprise, revealing the ring that had so recently been placed on her finger. I waited a moment more as screams and hugs and laughter and tears were all passed around once more. Then I revealed myself, stepping out into the living room and saying, “So, do I get to see the ring?”

My sister jumped or skipped or something. I’m not really sure what you would call it, but she came up off the floor with excitement and then up the stairs for a hug.

What a wonderful Christmas that was. But with all the revealing of those secrets, there was a better Christmas—the first Christmas.

Imagine the surprise of Zacharias, Mary, and Joseph when the angels visited them. Imagine the surprise of Elisabeth when she found she was expecting. Imagine the surprise of the shepherds when they saw the heavenly host and heard the announcement that the Messiah had been born. Imagine the surprise of the wise men as they realized they would see this great King. Imagine the joy of Anna and Simeon. Christ had come and the glory of God had been and was about to be revealed in a way no man had ever seen before.

 

The Promise of Deliverance

Isaiah chapter forty lays out a beautiful promise for the people of Israel—the promise of deliverance. The hope that in God’s time, He would extend grace to them and they would be set free from those who held them in captivity. But the promise didn’t end there.

 

The Promise of a Savior

Isaiah’s prophecy looked much further down the road not only to that night in Bethlehem but also to the ministry and sacrifice of Christ. God had already been preparing the way by the time that night came. He’d prepared Mary and Joseph and Zacharias and Elisabeth. He’d prepared the star. He’d ensured there would be a place for the little family in the stable. How amazing that night must have been. That night when the King of the Universe stepped out of Heaven and into this sin-sick world and brought just a little of His glory with Him.

 

The Glory of His Presence

Imagine the splendor of that night, the amazement of the shepherds, and the awe of Mary who held her son—and yet her God—in her arms. In this lay the glory of that night. Not that a child had been born, but that God had come to earth in a manner which allowed all flesh—all mankind—to see Him. The glory of that night is not that a group of weary shepherds saw a host of angels, but that Emmanuel came. God with us! Oh, the glory of His presence. The glory of a God who in His holiness has every right to turn His back from the wicked hearts of His creation, and yet who chose to walk among us, to comfort us, to heal us, to teach us, to die for us—to forgive us.

 

The Surety of the Promise

Israel had no cause to doubt the certainty that Isaiah’s prophecy would come true. Not because Isaiah was reliable, although he was, but because this prophecy was without a doubt from the mouth of God. Over and over in the book of Ezekiel God said, “I the Lord have spoken it and will do it.” Here the promise is no less. The glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh will see it and you know it to be true because it is the Word of God. What a promise! What a joy to have a God who can be trusted to such an extent that we need never doubt His promises.

This Christmas let us rejoice in the glory that was revealed that night so long ago. Let us rejoice that God chose to walk among us. Let us rejoice that He is among us still and has promised never to leave us nor to forsake us.

 

This year, I’m doing something I’ve never done before, completely unplanned. I’m going through Handel’s Messiah and meditating on the Scripture used there. For accountability’s sake, I’ll be sharing it here and on Facebook. If you’d like to join me for this series and other updates, simply fill out the form below.

 

Don’t Miss the Messiah Series. Sign up below.

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The Messiah Series

Preparing The Way

November 15, 2017

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:”

Have you ever broken a path for someone? Maybe through the snow, or through underbrush in a forest or, as I once helped do, through stinging nettles that towered above you? It isn’t easy work, but if you’re going to get to your destination, it is necessary. Unless we are wandering aimlessly, there is usually a goal in mind when we break a path. We’re making a way to get somewhere at some specific time for some specific purpose. These verses refer to one such specific time, place, and purpose, but they also can relate to our hearts.

From the context of Scripture, the voice in the wilderness is clearly referring to John the Baptist, preparing the way for Christ and His earthly ministry. John, being virtually the same age as Jesus, obviously was not preparing the way for Christ’s birth, although the events leading up to John’s birth foretold of something amazing to come. Just the same, John was preparing the hearts of the people around Him to see God in the flesh, in the form of Jesus Christ.

This Christmas as we look toward the day when we celebrate His first coming our hearts need to be prepared. Preparation is not always easy. We know that, especially as we consider all the preparation that goes into being ready for the holidays: the cooking, the cleaning, the shopping, the invitations, the juggling of schedules, the going, going, going, and the doing, doing, doing. But the preparation that is needed most is the preparation of our heart because we are preparing to see the glory of the Lord, to dwell upon the miracle of the Christ child who left heaven to live among us and to die for us.

 

Preparing Ourselves

Preparing our hearts cannot be done in the din of activity. It must be done in the quiet places, even if that quiet place is a busy coffee shop with dozens of other people around or in your minivan as you run from one school event to another. Heart preparation begins in a quiet heart that has stepped away from the cares of the world, submitted its will to the Father, and humbly cried out for the needed preparation.  That receptive heart will be more able to hear the still small voice of the Father as He reveals His glory to us. It prepares to worship, to praise, and to serve others. It is equipped through fellowship with Him to take on His mind and to walk in His steps as we reach out to those around us.

 

Helping Others Prepare

“Every valley shall be exalted.” Preparing the way includes leveling the road. Often sorrow of heart, discouragements, trials, and disappointments lead our road into deep valleys. Have you ever noticed that the sun sets sooner in the valley? That the glory of its descent is hidden by the towering cliffs around it? Perhaps this Christmas, our part in comforting God’s people is to help lead some out of the valley of discouragement onto the level ground that allows them to see His glory. For some, the great difference needed in their life will only come by the working out of God’s love through the compassion of His people. As we approach this time of keeping our hearts centered on the glory of the Messiah, how can we help those around us out of the valleys that block their view?

 

When God Must do the Preparation

“Every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” Not every heart is prepared to enter those quiet places. Not every heart can be prepared by compassion. Pride, resentment, discontent, anger, self-will, depravity, and many other sins cause the heart to swell into a mountain that must be made low. They bend the path and strew its surface with hurdles and stones. Sadly, the chastening, leveling hand of the Lord must prepare some hearts.

This can be painful to watch, and even more painful to endure. For those who watch it is a time to enter into prayer for those we love. For those who find themselves in that place of heavy preparation the answer lies in surrender and repentance—in letting go of those things, which separate us from fellowship with God. We must allow Him to heal the damage we have wrought in our own hearts. It may be painful, but the result will be a way made plain, a view unhindered, a fellowship restored with the King of Glory.

 

This Christmas season as each day draws us closer to the celebration of His birth let us prepare our hearts to see His glory. Let us allow Him to remove those things that block our view. Let us make a difference in the hearts of others through the comfort He has called us to pour out upon them.

 

This year, I’m doing something I’ve never done before, completely unplanned. I’m going through Handel’s Messiah and meditating on the Scripture used there. For accountability’s sake, I’ll be sharing it here. If you’d like to join me for this series and other updates, simply fill out the form below.

Don’t Miss the Messiah Series. Sign up below.

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The God of All Comfort

November 14, 2017

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:1-3

We live in a broken world, broken by sickness, war, pride, poverty, hurt, and sorrow—broken by sin. Yet God, the God against whom our sin has been perpetrated and who has every right as the Creator of the universe to obliterate our very existence from the planet, stoops into our brokenness with His love.

That is the very thing we celebrate at Christmas, the comfort of God in our dark, all-encompassing sorrow by the gift and sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus—The Messiah. Do you remember the comfort of His touch? Do you remember the hope of the words, “Your iniquity is pardoned”? Have you known that touch?

Have you known that touch in heartache or in loss? He is the God not only of salvation (which is, in a sense, the first great comfort) but also the God of all comfort.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3,4)

Once we have known His comfort, He does not want us to keep it to ourselves. He wants us to share that comfort with those around us. To extend to them the grace that He has extended to us and the love with which He has loved us.

As we approach Christmas this year, let’s be watching. Let’s be asking, how can I comfort the people around me? And if you are in need of that comforting touch, I invite you to seek it out. He offers it freely. Join me here as we take a few quiet moments to reflect on Jesus, the Messiah, the God of all comforts. Let this Christmas be one of coming to know God in a new way as we learn of His comfort and extend it to those around us.

 

[This year, I’m doing something I’ve never done before, completely unplanned. I’m going through Handel’s Messiah and meditating on the Scripture used there. For accountability’s sake, I’ll be sharing it here and on Facebook. If you’d like to join me for this series and other updates, simply fill out the form below.]

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