Daily Light – Dec 21, 2019

Meditation and Devotional from David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional:  study, observe, apply, pray.  (Friends: David’s recent morning study has been to focus on passages in the Old Testament that proclaimed that God would establish His King and Kingdom in the earth.  That God would send a Messiah.  Jesus is that promised Messiah.  We will continue to follow David on this subject.)

The Savior and Sovereign LORD

Matthew 1:18-21; Luke 1:26-33

Matt. 1:18   This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew’s emphasis in on the name Jesus (Yeshua = Yahweh saves) because the main purpose He came was to provide salvation – a way sinful, separated humans could be reconciled with their Creator. This is the greatest need humans have – more than money, food, education, etc. We were made for a relationship with the Creator, and He took the initiative to bring us back into that relationship after we had left it through sin and independence. This was fulfilled by His rejection and substitutionary death at His first coming. (Isa 53)

Luke 1:26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Luke also records that He should be called Jesus, but his emphasis is on role He will fulfill at His second coming – the Almighty and Eternal King. He is both, the despised and rejected One, who was raised from the dead, and the One before whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord to the glory of God! (Phil 2:6-11)

[Next, we will look at John’s account]

Wonderful Lord Jesus, Thank You for being willing to suffer for us! You really strongly desired us to be in relationship with You!!! Thank You for choosing me to hear this good news and giving me the joy to tell others of Your love for them also. But our world doesn’t think much at all about living under the Lordship of any almighty ruler. It is fearful to think of any human with that much power. But You are the only one who could/would be a perfectly righteous ruler, and it creates a longing in me for You to come and rule and restore this broken and painful world. I pray for a heart that is joyful and zealous to love and serve You, declaring to as many as possible the good news of repentance and faith in You – the perfect, sovereign Savior and Lord. Amen

Daily Light – Dec 20, 2019

In the fullness of time – adopted

Galatians 4:1-6

Meditation and Devotional from David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional:  study, observe, apply, pray.  (Friends: David’s recent morning study has been to focus on passages in the Old Testament that proclaimed that God would establish His King and Kingdom in the earth.  That God would send a Messiah.  Jesus is that promised Messiah.  We will continue to follow David on this subject.)

Gal. 4:1 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba , Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

In the Roman world a child did not receive his inheritance upon his father’s death unless he had reached a designated age. Until that time, it was like a “Trust” that was managed by others and the child was expected to learn how to responsibly handle the money upon reaching that age. Paul uses that analogy in the end of Ch 3 and beginning of Ch 4 to teach that under the Law of Moses the Jews were like underage children who did not have full privileges of God’s inheritance, and that it was a burden to have to follow all the requirements of the Trust or guardianship. Paul said the Law was only supposed to be in effect till the Messiah came (3:19) and then all believers (3:23-29) would be like adult children with complete access to the full blessings of God. It reminds me of a young woman from another country who is in the process of getting her US Citizenship – there is great anticipation and excitement.

Paul said “In the fullness of time” God brought it about. All the promises to David, Isaiah, Daniel, (and all the rest in the OT) were on a carefully planned timeline set by God. Now the Romans were the controlling power of the Western world, their language (and Greek) were understood almost everywhere, the Roman road system spread commerce and communication quickly. All the time predictions in the book of Daniel were fulfilled (especially 9:24-27). After hundreds of years of the Jews crying out for the deliverance of their Messiah, God answered, exactly on time! 

Jesus was born under the Law, and He kept all the requirements and burdens of the Law. No one had ever done that before. So God could now end the Law and all its requirement. It had served its purpose. Now those who believed in Jesus (for their atonement and righteousness) were declared “of age” – able to inherit by grace, what they could not inherit by keeping the requirements of the Law.

Wonderful Lord God, we praise You for keeping Your promises and never being late. You are the Almighty One whose zeal accomplishes everything You desire. (Isa 9:6-8) And Lord Jesus, I praise and thank You for keeping all the requirements of the Law, fulfilling all its demands, and now sharing all the blessings of Your inheritance with us. Help me always trust Your timing and never get frustrated. Help me live in the freedom of the adoption You have given us in Christ. And help me make this good news clear to people everywhere who do not know or enjoy the glorious “sonship” we can have in Christ.  Amen

Daily Light – Dec 19, 2019

The suffering servant

Isaiah 53

Meditation and Devotional from David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional:  study, observe, apply, pray.  (Friends: David’s recent morning study has been to focus on passages in the Old Testament that proclaim that God will establish His King and Kingdom on the earth.  That God would send a Messiah.  Jesus is that promised Messiah.  We will continue to follow David on this subject.)

Isaiah 53:1  Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

 3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted, …

8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. … though he had done no violence …

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, …

11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied …

From the time this was written till today the Jews, especially, have had great difficulty understanding this passage. How could this refer to the great and powerful Messiah of the other passages we looked at last week? Some have thought it referred to the whole nation of Israel and all the suffering they have endured. But this describes one who suffered on behalf of the nation Israel, it could not refer to the nation. Without understanding two comings of the Messiah – the first to suffer as the atonement for sin, and the second to come as conquering King – this made no sense. 

Sovereign LORD, Your plan was so much more amazing than anyone could ever have anticipated or understood without Your explanation. Thank You Messiah that You came first as the Suffering Servant, allowing Yourself to be despised and rejected, familiar with pain. You voluntarily took a life with all the rejection and suffering we would ever know, so that we could share with You in Your glory and Kingdom. It is all the more amazing that it pleased You to do all of that for a world that mostly not understand or care that You died for us. May my life always be a response of love and gratitude for You. May I be as pleased to suffer for You as You were to suffer for me!  Amen.

Daily Light – Dec 18, 2019

The Rock Became A Mountain

Daniel 2:31-45

Meditation and Devotional from David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional:  study, observe, apply, pray.  (Friends: David’s recent morning study has been to focus on passages in the Old Testament that proclaimed that God would establish His King and Kingdom in the earth.  That God would send a Messiah.  Jesus is that promised Messiah.  We will continue to follow David on this subject.)

This was written about 200 years after the Isaiah passages we shared previously.

Daniel 2:31  “Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it …  44 … the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands. 

In this prophecy God told Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom of Babylon would be replaced by the Medo-Persians, then the Greeks, then the Roman, and then His Messiah would come – who would smash and replace all earthly kingdoms with His eternal Kingdom. A picture of power and majesty above every earthly kingdom! So we can understand why after hearing the promise to David, and the ones through Isaiah and this one in Daniel, all the Jews, including Joseph and Mary would have expected a mighty king who would conquer all other world powers and exalt the nation Israel above all the others. And He will! But passages like Isa 53, (which we will look at next time) show God’s plan had more to it than the Jews could have imagined.

Lord, You are the Almighty One. Everything You say is true and will happen just as You said. I  praise You that Jesus will replace every human government with righteousness, mercy and justice. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is LORD to the glory of God! Help me never be discouraged by the evil in this world. May I live with purpose and confidence in You more than what I see around me. But help me also realize that how and when You fulfill Your promises may not fit my/our expectations and that You call us to trust and follow Jesus and all He endured. Amen

Daily Light – Dec 17, 2019

What produces justice?

Isaiah 11:1-10

Meditation and Devotional from David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional:  study, observe, apply, pray.  (Friends: David’s recent morning study has been to focus on passages in the Old Testament that proclaim that God will establish His King and Kingdom on the earth.  That God would send a Messiah.  Jesus is that promised Messiah.  We will continue to follow David on this subject.)

Isaiah 11:1   A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;   from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— 

3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.  He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;

4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.  He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist….

9 for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. 

10  In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him …

Here Isaiah adds another description of the coming Messiah – the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord. In fact, He will delight in the fear of the Lord! In our day most people do not want to think about the fear of the Lord. We want to focus on His love, and fear does not seem to fit with love. But the Lord Jesus Christ/Messiah delights in the fear of the Lord, which is that combination of awe, respect, fear and love that recognizes that God is almighty, all knowing and all loving and the last thing anyone in their right mind would do is to disregard or disobey that God. Any person with an accurate knowledge of God will be thrilled to revere, honor, obey, and serve Him.

And what a ruler He will be! With perfect knowledge and insight into all people He will provide justice for the poor and needy, and also bring to justice those who use their power to oppress the innocent. At His coming all the earth will be changed, people from every nation will be drawn to Him.

Wonderful Messiah, it is no wonder Israel longed for Your coming! Our world desperately needs a ruler like You! I praise You for Your qualities of compassion and justice, and that You show us the beauty of the fear of the Lord. Help me delight in that fear as much as You did. If we did that now, we would have so much more justice than we do. Use me to help others “be filled with the knowledge of the Lord” and call people to Your beauty and glory now. Amen

Daily Light – Dec 16, 2019

Almighty and Zealous

Isaiah 9:2-7  

Meditation and Devotional from David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional:  study, observe, apply, pray.  (Friends: David’s recent morning study has been to focus on passages in the Old Testament that proclaim that God would establish His King and Kingdom in the earth.  That God would send a Messiah.  Jesus is that promised Messiah.  We will continue to follow David on this subject.)

This passage was written about 300 years after the one in 2 Samuel 7 that I sent two days ago. After David was king, and then his son, Solomon, his kingdom was divided and at this point the Assyrians were about to destroy the Northern Kingdom.

9:2   The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

9:3   You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy;

they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest,

as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder….

9:6   For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

9.7   Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne … with justice and righteousness

from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. 

How much joy would there be if someone had lived in darkness (blindness?) and could now clearly see? How much joy is there when soldiers divide the plunder at the end of a battle? – A battle of hand to hand combat with swords, and death everywhere? Going into the battle no one knows who will live or which side will win, but everyone knows even the greatest warrior could easily be killed. The joy of victory at the end of the battle may be mixed with exhaustion and sadness, but there is life and hope for the future. Isaiah promised Israel that kind of joy when Yahweh sends the Messiah that was promised to David.

He would be a supreme ruler, with wisdom, power, and He would bring peace – a government that would never end or be overthrown by another. That is a great promise, but how did he/they/we know it would happen? Because the Almighty God was ZEALOUS to make it happen! What is the result of an ALMIGHTY God being zealous about anything? It is certain to happen!!! 

Almighty God, our world is full of darkness, sin, and suffering. It looks like the enemy is winning as he destroys lives all around us. We get discouraged. But You have promised that You are ALMIGHTY and You are ZEALOUS to make this happen. You kept Your promises about the first coming of the Messiah, and about His resurrection from the dead, so we have confidence to believe You will keep this promise too. Lord, we want You to come quickly, but we know most of the world has still not heard about the first coming of the Messiah to provide our salvation, so help me and ALL believers to be zealous to declare what You have already done, and the need to repent and believe in You before You come again in judgment on this dark world. But we do long for Your appearing in Light! Amen

Daily Light – Dec 13, 2019

What’s the deepest longing of the human heart? What’s your deepest desire? What’s the thing you want most? There’s an answer to that question, and it’s the focus of today’s episode.

Here now is Pastor John reading chapter one from his wonderful book Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, a chapter that answers the question, What is the deepest longing of my heart?

The heavens declare the glory of God. (Psalm 19:1)

God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Meaning of Heaven and Earth

The created universe is all about glory. The deepest longing of the human heart and the deepest meaning of heaven and earth are summed up in this: the glory of God. The universe was made to show it, and we were made to see it and savor it. Nothing less will do. Which is why the world is as disordered and as dysfunctional as it is. We have exchanged the glory of God for other things (Romans 1:23).

“The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). That is why all the universe exists. It’s all about glory. The Hubble Space Telescope sends back infrared images of faint galaxies perhaps twelve billion light-years away (twelve billion times six trillion miles). Even within our Milky Way there are stars so great as to defy description, like Eta Carinae, which is five million times brighter than our sun.

“The sun of God’s glory was made to shine at the center of the solar system of our soul.”

Sometimes people stumble over this vastness in relation to the apparent insignificance of man. It does seem to make us infinitesimally small. But the meaning of this magnitude is not mainly about us. It’s about God. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” says the Scripture. The reason for “wasting” so much space on a universe to house a speck of humanity is to make a point about our Maker, not us. “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these [stars]? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing” (Isaiah 40:26).

God at the Center

The deepest longing of the human heart is to know and enjoy the glory of God. We were made for this. “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth . . . whom I created for my glory,” says the Lord (Isaiah 43:6–7). To see it, to savor it, and to show it — that is why we exist. The untracked, unimaginable stretches of the created universe are a parable about the inexhaustible “riches of his glory” (Romans 9:23). The physical eye is meant to say to the spiritual eye, “Not this, but the Maker of this, is the Desire of your soul.” Saint Paul said, “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). Or, even more precisely, he said that we were “prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:23). This is why we were created — that he might “make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy” (Romans 9:23).

The ache in every human heart is an ache for this. But we suppress it and do not see fit to have God in our knowledge (Romans 1:28). Therefore, the entire creation has fallen into disorder. The most prominent example of this in the Bible is the disordering of our sexual lives. Paul says that the exchange of the glory of God for other things is the root cause for the homosexual (and heterosexual) disordering of our relationships. “Their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature . . . the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another” (Romans 1:26–27). If we exchange God’s glory for lesser things, he gives us up to lived-out parables of depravity — the other exchanges that mirror, in our misery, the ultimate sellout.

“The deepest longing of the human heart is to know and enjoy the glory of God.”

The point is this: We were made to know and treasure the glory of God above all things; and when we trade that treasure for images, everything is disordered. The sun of God’s glory was made to shine at the center of the solar system of our soul. And when it does, all the planets of our life are held in their proper orbit. But when the sun is displaced, everything flies apart. The healing of the soul begins by restoring the glory of God to its flaming, all-attracting place at the center.

Starved for Glory

We are all starved for the glory of God, not self. No one goes to the Grand Canyon to increase self-esteem. Why do we go? Because there is greater healing for the soul in beholding splendor than there is in beholding self. Indeed, what could be more ludicrous in a vast and glorious universe like this than a human being, on the speck called earth, standing in front of a mirror trying to find significance in his own self-image? It is a great sadness that this is the gospel of the modern world.

But it is not the Christian gospel. Into the darkness of petty self-preoccupation has shone “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The Christian gospel is about “the glory of Christ,” not about me. And when it is — in some measure — about me, it is not about my being made much of by God, but about God mercifully enabling me to enjoy making much of him forever.

Greatest Good of the Gospel

What was the most loving thing Jesus could do for us? What was the endpoint, the highest good, of the gospel? Redemption? Forgiveness? Justification? Reconciliation? Sanctification? Adoption? Are not all of these great wonders simply means to something greater? Something final? Something that Jesus asked his Father to give us? “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me” (John 17:24).

The Christian gospel is “the gospel of the glory of Christ” because its final aim is that we would see and savor and show the glory of Christ. For this is none other than the glory of God. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). When the light of the gospel shines in our hearts, it is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). And when we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2), that hope is “our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). The glory of Christ is the glory of God.

In one sense, Christ laid the glory of God aside when he came: “And now, Father, glorify me together in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). But in another sense, Christ manifested the glory of God in his coming: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Therefore, in the gospel we see and savor “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). And this kind of “seeing” is the healing of our disordered lives. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

A Prayer

O Father of glory, this is the cry of our hearts — to be changed from one degree of glory to another, until, in the resurrection, at the last trumpet, we are completely conformed to the image of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Until then, we long to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord, especially the knowledge of his glory. We want to see it as clearly as we see the sun, and to savor it as deeply as our most desired pleasure. O merciful God, incline our hearts to your word and the wonders of your glory. Wean us from our obsession with trivial things. Open the eyes of our hearts to see each day what the created universe is telling about your glory. Enlighten our minds to see the glory of your Son in the gospel. We believe that you are the All-glorious One, and that there is none like you. Help our unbelief. Forgive the wandering of our affections and the undue attention we give to lesser things. Have mercy on us for Christ’s sake, and fulfill in us your great design to display the glory of your grace. In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons.