To Us a Child Was Born

We have good reason to be expectant that God will do, and is doing, what He said He would do.


“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone…. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6 ESV)

These words that are repeated often at Christmas time were spoken originally by Isaiah, the prophet, hundreds of years before Jesus. “For unto us a child is born….” These words are so ubiquitous in our western culture today that we may miss the significance of them.

At one time, people doubted the dating of Isaiah because it so accurately describes Jesus who was born around 4 BC. Isaiah lived purportedly in the 8th Century BC. Because Isaiah predates Jesus and the span of time from Isaiah to Jesus, an increasingly skeptical world that seriously doubted the predictive nature of those words begin to think that the Isaiah text was written after Jesus, perhaps in the 1st Century after his death.

People no longer doubt when Isaiah wrote those words, however, not since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. One of the most significant discoveries among the Dead Scrolls was the Isaiah Scroll. It has been dated hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, and it is nearly word for word the same as the more recent manuscripts of Isaiah that we had until that time.[1]

Isaiah contains, perhaps, the clearest and most amazing prophecies in the whole OT of the coming of Jesus.[2] For this reason, Isaiah is quoted every Christmas. Particularly the statements stating that the Messiah would come as a child.

At least one aspect of what Isaiah wrote gets lost in wonder of the predictions he spoke. We look back on them now with wonder and amazement that God inspired Isaiah to speak those words so long ago, but when Isaiah spoke them, no one listened. No one believed him.

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Christmas Thoughts: Ruth & God, the Kinsman-Redeemer

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maxresdefault REFUGE CHURCH Copyright © 2016.

My Christmas thoughts have taken me to the genealogy in Matthew of the lineage of Jesus and the curious inclusion of five women in that patriarchal history. They stand out, not only as women in a patriarchal society, but as examples of faith and of God’s redeeming love.

Tamar and Rahab, the first two women in the list, were unlikely examples. Tamar prostituted herself with Judah, and Rahab was actually a prostitute. That God would use such sinful and lowly women is shocking, if not remarkable. Their stations in life and their choices before the encounters which defined them were humble and base.

Their faith, however, is the story. They believed God. They made a choice to trust God and His promise. Though they were both flawed and of low station in life, they are remembered in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world who will also rule all that God has made at the end of this age. Though they were women in a patriarchal society, they are remembered side by side with the men.

The real story is God and His redeeming work in the lives of people and in the history of world. No story is more pregnant with God’s redemptive work than the story of Ruth, who is the third women listed in the genealogy of Jesus.

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Christmas Thoughts: God Redeems the Line of Judah through Tamar

 (c) Can Stock Photo / halfpoint
(c) Can Stock Photo / halfpoint

Amazingly, the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew lists five women. In a patriarchal society governed by paternal lineage, that fact should jump out at us and cause us to take notice. What is God saying? What was He doing? How should we view that today?

We can gain insights by looking at the women who are listed. The first woman listed is Tamar. Her story is found in Genesis 38, and it is a wild one for people of polite sensibilities.

Tamar was the wife of Judah’s oldest son, Er. Judah was the fourth son of Jacob (son of Isaac, son of Abraham). It might seem odd that Judah, the fourth son, is the one from whom Jesus (the Messiah) descends, but that is only a minor oddity compared to the rest. Continue reading “Christmas Thoughts: God Redeems the Line of Judah through Tamar”

Christmas thoughts: Humble Beginnings, Worldwide Ends

canstockphoto7454869
(c) Can Stock Photo / Anke

Christmastime is a time to consider the birth of Christ. That is “the reason for the season” as the saying goes. Even with the layering of a celebration of the birth of Christ over a Roman holiday celebrating a pagan mystery religion, and even in the busyness of all the commercialism and shopping frenzy, and in spite of the looming red eclipse of Santa, we usually pause to connect the dots to the birth of Jesus.

Whether you wish people a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, Christmas involves some acknowledgment of the birth of a man who was called Jesus who lived and died in the 1st Century in the region of Palestine and modern Israel today. Here, in the confluence of Roman, Greek, Jewish and pagan influences, an obscure carpenter who lived maybe 33 years began a movement in human history that has spanned the globe and, even today, remains a predominant influence.

This movement created perhaps the freest and greatest democracy in human history. It flourishes even in the cold, communist climate of China and in the hotly hostile religious climate of Iran. It has made its way into the far reaches of the earth, down remote jungle streams and over barren desert sands to touch nearly all people groups of the earth.

The circumstances surrounding the birth of this influential, but humble, man are shrouded in mystery and quiet awe, if the circumstances are to be believed. Continue reading “Christmas thoughts: Humble Beginnings, Worldwide Ends”

Slavery in the New Testament

Slavery was common in the culture in the 1st Century AD, and it is, therefore, not surprising to find references to it in the New Testament. Following are the references to slavery in the New Testament and some commentary to put it in perspective.

hieroglyphics of slaves in Abu Simbel


A recent conversation with one of my sons spurred me to consider slavery as it is addressed in the New Testament because the Bible is sometimes criticized by skeptics who point to its treatment of slavery. Indeed, there are instructions given to the nation of Israel that seem to accept slavery as a practice, and the New Testament does not expressly condemn it.

So, what does the Bible really say about slavery?

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