Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Heart of Christmas: The Lamb-Carrying Shepherd and the Glory of God

Some of the most powerful words about our Savior were written by Isaiah. Today, I read those words, not as a separate section, but as the continuation of a difficult time in Israel's past. 

It's left me stunned and blinking back tears at the majestic sweetness of our Abba Father.

Hezekiah was dying. My doctor-interpretation of Scripture is that he was septic from a large abscess. (Leanna paraphrase coming up.)

Isaiah came to visit with glum words. "God says, 'Get your house in order, King Hezekiah. You're about to die.'" 

Everything Isaiah had ever prophesied came true, so Hezekiah's response surprises me. He turned away from Isaiah and prayed. "Remember all I've done for you, Lord." 

That doesn't quite fit Jesus' Model Prayer formula, but God accepted it. "Okay. I'll add fifteen years to your life. And I'll defend you. And I'll give you a sign. And I'll cause time to go backward."

You might think that Hezekiah would be so humbled by this miracle of grace that he would never get over it. You'd be wrong. Hezekiah became proud and it was his downfall.

The king of Babylon sent spies to Hezekiah and he showed them everything from his house to the treasury to the entire dominion. 

Isaiah couldn't believe it. "What did you show them?"

"Everything. It's all mine, and I can show it off if I want to..." Those weren't quite his words, of course. But that's what his heart said.

"Bad move, King. Jerusalem will be completely destroyed and your descendants will be captives in Babylon."

I'd have kept this to myself if I'd thought it, but Hezekiah actually told Isaiah, "That's okay. As long as it happens after I'm dead, I don't care." (Again, the heart of what he said, but not his exact words.)

It's a good thing I'm not God. If I had been, I might have zapped Hezekiah on the spot for that. 

Instead, our God sent the most breathtaking prophesy of our Savior imaginable. The words were so beautiful that Handel put them to music. They've played in my head for hours this morning.

Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
And all flesh will see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

"Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs,
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes."
Isaiah 40:5,11 nasb

Hezekiah was flawed by sin, just as we are. He made mistakes, just as we do. He put the people of God in jeopardy because of His pride. Yet God, in His mercy, never rejected him. He loved this imperfect man enough to tell him about the Savior who would redeem every mistake and cover every sin. He loves us just that much, too. 

The baby in the manger whose arrival we celebrate isn't just a cooing bundle of cuteness. He is the lamb-carrying Shepherd who scooped us up by His sacrifice and showed us all the glory of God.

Today, let's celebrate that glory that arrived in a manger only to shine brightest in the darkness of our sin.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Heart of Christmas: The Stabilizer
#advent #Jesus