Advent – A King Who Chose Poverty

Advent Reading: Isaiah 61:1-2 (underlined below)

Promise Made | During the decline of Israel, the Lord called Isaiah to prophesy about the coming Messiah, saying, The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor [1].

Promise Kept | In his first public act of ministry, Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth and spoke those words from the scroll of Isaiah. Every eye was fixed on him. Then he said, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” [2]. In other words, “The time is fulfilled. I am the one being spoken of. My ministry is the arrival of the long-awaited kingdom of healing and salvation and freedom from oppression. God is now revealing himself as king to save and deliver and help like he never has before” [3].

Promise Meant | Yet, Jesus did not use mere words to proclaim good news to the poor and oppressed. He used his life. In heaven, the King of kings intentionally decided to come as a pauper, not a prince. Rather than choosing a wealthy family to be his own, he chose Mary and Joseph – a couple so poor that they could afford only a poor man’s sacrifice at the temple (pigeons in lieu of a lamb) [4]. Jesus did not embrace poverty and oppression, however, as a clever means to rationalize his otherwise undesirable circumstances; he embraced those values because they said something about his kingdom. His life was a testimony that God’s kingdom was not about money, power, status or celebrity; rather, it was about the riches of knowing God and the freedom of being found in Christ [5].

Prayer | Lord, In the incarnation, Jesus moved from immeasurable wealth to voluntary poverty and – ultimately – to absolute destitution on the cross [6]. And he did this for our salvation. Yet, we confess that we oftentimes seek comfort and ease without thinking too much about what our choices say about your kingdom. Forgive us and incline our hearts away from the riches of this world. Help us make different choices about how we live so that our lives – not just our words – testify to the riches of knowing you and the joy of being in your presence. Amen.

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What is the non-advent reading for today? 2 Kings 18:1-8 + 2 Chron. 29:1-2 + 2 Kings 17:1-6
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Footnotes:  [1] Is. 61:1-2 ESV   |  [2] Lk. 4:18-19 ESV  |  [3] John Piper, “The Importance of the Kingdom Today.” 28 January 1990.  |  [4] See Luke 2:22-24 (Under the law, the regular sacrifice was a lamb. If a person could not afford a lamb, however, they could offer two turtledoves or two pigeons. See Leviticus 12:8). Mary and Joseph offered two turtledoves or pigeons.  |  [5] See Phil. 3.  |  [6] See 2 Cor. 8:9.
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Advent – A King Riding on a Donkey

Advent Reading: Zech. 9:9 (underlined below)

Promise Made | As we have seen [1], God promised that the Messiah would come as a king in the line of David. Yet, Zechariah prophesied that he would not come on a stallion – as most kings did – rather, he would come on a donkey: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey [2].

Promise Kept | As Passover was approaching, Jesus sent two disciples to fetch a donkey: “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me” [3]. After His disciples found the animals, Jesus mounted them and rode into Jerusalem. As the crowd gathered around Him, they spread out their cloaks and palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” [4]

Promise Meant | By coming on a donkey, not a stallion, Jesus showed us the joy of God’s kingdom. His people were to “rejoice greatly” because, under the reign of Jesus, His people would be happy since He would not be like other rulers they knew – Nero (aloof) or Caligula (cruel, extravagant, selfish and sexually perverse). Instead, when Jesus came, the people shouted hosannas, the slave girls prophesied, the blind received sight, the lame walked, the deaf heard, the lepers were cleansed, and the dead were raised to life. By riding on a donkey – an animal of peace, not war – Jesus ushered in the peace of the kingdom of God [5]. By his blood, Jesus brought peace between God and humanity and between Israel and the nations [6].

Prayer | Lord, You could have sent Jesus as a Machiavellian dictator – to be feared rather than loved. Instead, you humbly and peacefully came on a donkey, as a lamb led to the slaughter. Thank you for establishing your kingdom of joy and peace so that we could stand in your presence. Thank you for choosing love and humility as the very essence of your character and cause us to walk in the truth of who you are. Amen.

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What is the non-advent reading for today? Is. 12:1-6 & Is. 17
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Footnotes
[1] 843 Acres, Advent: The Messiah Would Have a Particular Lineage (Part 2: A Throne). 3 Dec. 2010.  |  [2] Zechariah 9:9 ESV  |  [3] Matthew 21:2 ESV  |  [4] John 12:13  |  [5] See Zechariah 9:10  |  [6] See Ephesians 2:11-22, Colossians 1:15-23

Advent – A King Born in Bethlehem

Advent Reading: Micah 5:2 (underlined below)

Promise Made | As Israel was falling apart, God called Micah to prophesy about a coming ruler who would restore them. Micah said that this person would come from Bethlehem in Judah: But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah [1], who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days [2]. Those who heard these words immediately thought of two people – King David (who was born in Bethlehem [3]) and the Promised Messiah (who was to be born in Bethlehem). Since David was long dead, though, the prophecy had to be about the Messiah, whose throne would be established forever in the line of David [4].

Promise Kept | When Jesus was born, King Herod was upset when he heard that magi were looking for a newly born baby boy who was called the “king of the Jews” [5]. Thinking this baby may have been the Messiah, he asked Jewish scholars where the Messiah was supposed to be born. They replied, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet” [6]. They were right. When the magi got to Bethlehem, they “saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” [7].

Promise Meant | When God chose to change the course of history and eternity, He did not choose to work in an urban metropolis like New York City. Instead, He chose a small and insignificant town with a population of less than a thousand. There was nothing special about this little town of Bethlehem. Yet, it was the birthplace of the most significant person to ever have walked this earth.

Prayer | Lord, Although Jesus is from everlasting to everlasting, he humbled himself by taking on frail human flesh and coming from an insignificant town. We confess, however, that we oftentimes do not want to follow in his ways because, although we know that we are small in the scheme of things, we inordinately long for importance apart from the significance that you offer to us in Christ. Therefore, forgive us and help us boast in our weakness so that we may be tethered to your strength [8]. Amen.

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What is the non-advent reading for today? Isaiah 9:1-11:1
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Footnotes
[1] Ephrathah was an ancient name for Bethlehem meaning “fruitful.” See Genesis 48:7. There were two towns called Bethlehem – one in the southern kingdom of Judah and the other in the northern kingdom of Israel. In ancient times, the Bethlehem of Judah was called Ephrathah. Thus, when God spoke through the prophet Micah that Bethlehem Ephrathah would be the birthplace of the Messiah, He was speaking of Bethlehem of Judah, where Jesus would be born.  |  [2] Mic. 5:3 ESV  |  [3] Moreover, Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be a shepherd to His people. Not only was David a shepherd as a young boy, he was also called the shepherd of Israel. See Psalm 78:70-71.  |  [4] See 2 Sam. 7:12-16.  |  [5] Matt. 2:2  |  [6] Matt. 2:5-6, ESV (and then they quoted Micah). See also Jn. 7:42.  |  [7] Matt. 2:11 NASB  |  [8] 1 Cor. 1:26-31.

Advent – A King Greater than Solomon

Advent Reading: Col 2:1-3 (underlined below)


Promise Made |
Prior to the coming of Jesus, evangelism followed a come-see pattern. As John Piper notes, “There is a geographic center of the people of God. There is a physical temple, an earthly king, a political regime, an ethnic identity, an army to fight God’s earthly battles, and a band of priests to make animal sacrifices for sin” [1]. Thus, God blessed Israel to show Himself as God to all nations. As Solomon prayed at the Temple dedication, “May [the Lord] maintain the cause … of his people Israel, as each day requires, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other” [2]. Then, when the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon and saw his wisdom and wealth, she proclaimed, “Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on his throne as king for the Lord your God!”[3].

Promise Kept | When Jesus came into the world, however, the pattern shifted from come-see to go-tell. Piper continues, “There is no geographic center for Christianity; Jesus has replaced the temple, the priests, and the sacrifices; there is no Christian political regime because Christ’s kingdom is not of this world; and we do not fight earthly battles with chariots and horses or bombs and bullets, but spiritual ones with the word and with the Spirit” [4]. Thus, as Jesus told the Pharisees, “[The Queen of the South] came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here” [5].

Promise Meant | The wisdom and wealth of Jesus exceed even the greatest human wisdom and wealth. Solomon spoke the wisdom of God; Jesus is the wisdom of God [6]. Solomon built the Temple; Jesus is the Temple. Therefore, in Christ, “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge [7]. The shift from place (Israel) to person (Jesus) changes how we live. No longer are we called to amass great wealth to show the world how rich our God is; now, we give our wealth away to show the world that Jesus himself is our greatest treasure.

Prayer | Lord, In Christ, you have fulfilled all promises. Not only is he a king in the line of David, he is much greater than a king – in all wisdom and wealth. Loosen our grips on this world as we “go tell” about the great riches in Christ. Amen.

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What is the non-advent reading for today? Is. 7-8.
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Footnotes
[1] John Piper. “To Prosperity Preachers: Teach Them to Go.” 25 May 2010.  |  [2] 1 Kings 8:59-60 ESV  |  [3] 2 Chr. 9:8 ESV. See also 1 Kings 10.  |  [4] Id. at [1].  |  [5] Matt. 12:42 ESV  |  [6] 1 Cor. 1:24, 30.  |  [7] Col. 2:3 ESV

Advent – A King in the Line of David

Advent Reading: Rev. 11:15 (underlined below)

Promise Made | God promised Abraham that He would bless the world through him [1]. God then extended that covenant to Abraham’s son Isaac, then Isaac’s son Jacob, and then Jacob’s son Judah [2]. Nine generations later, in Judah’s line, Jesse of Bethlehem had eight sons, including David. Although David was the youngest, God chose to extend the covenant to him: “I will make for you a great name … I will raise up your offspring after you … and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” [3].

Promise Kept | On the one hand, God kept that promise to David by making his son, Solomon, into a great king. On the other hand, however, the throne of Solomon did not endure forever – he died and, upon his death, civil war broke out and his throne was split into two kingdoms (Israel and Judah). Yet, a thousand years later, an angel announced to a virgin, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David … and of his kingdom there will be no end” [4].

Promise Meant | God called forth Jesus through the line of David because He wanted to show that Jesus was the ultimate and final king. When God promised the kingdom of Israel to David, He had a far greater kingdom in view for his descendant. Jesus is not just king over Israel; he is king over all. As Handel’s Messiah celebrates (quoting John’s Revelation): “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” [5].

Prayer | Lord, As “the founder and perfecter of our faith”, Jesus joyfully “endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” [6]. Today, he reigns over all people – those of Israel and beyond – and we have an advocate in him before the Father [7]. Therefore, let us “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace” [8]. Amen.


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What is the non-advent reading for today? 2 Kg. 16 and 2 Chron. 28.
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Footnotes
[1] See 843 Acres, The Messiah Would Have a Particular Lineage (Part 1: A Family), 2 December 2010.  |  [2]   If I don’t know the name of my great grandfather, then how do the gospel writers know the names of the over 65 generations from which Jesus came … or, let’s be honest, is it all fabricated? I asked this question to a scholarly Messianic Jew two years ago. His response was profound. First, he told me that every Jew recorded their genealogy in the Temple so that they could trace their ancestral line back to King David and beyond. Second, he pointed out that, since the Romans destroyed the temple – and its genealogical records within – in 70 AD, no one thereafter could prove their family origin to the specificity that the Messianic prophecies required. Therefore, the last generation that had access to such proof of lineage was the generation of the gospel writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Third, by destroying the temple and its records, God was ushering in a new way to become his people – no longer through the recorded ancestral line of Israel, but rather through the line of faith in Jesus Christ himself.  |  [3]  2 Samuel 7:9, 12-13 ESV  |    [4]  Luke 1:31-33 ESV. See also Romans 1:3; Matthew 22:45; Psalm 110:1; 1 Corinthians 15:25. Note also: The genealogy of Matthew and the genealogy of Luke differ. For some interesting thoughts as to why, see Who Was Jesus’ Grandfather? by John Piper (18 November 1997).  |  [5] Revelation 11:15 ESV. See also James’ argument before the Jerusalem Council, in which he argued that God’s plan was to “rebuild the tabernacle of David” in order that “the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name” (Acts 17, quoting Amos 15:14-18).  |  [6]  Hebrews 12:2 ESV  |  [7]  1 John 2:1-2  |  [8]  Hebrews 4:16