My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation

He had a promise.

The LORD had given him assurance – he would see the Messiah before his death.

Simeon lived with something more than hopeful expectation. He knew. As firm as the ground beneath his feet – he knew.

All his years of righteous devotion found their ultimate reward when he saw that face. That small, innocent face.

The Christ child.

The light and revelation to the world. And so he proclaimed for all the hear:

“My eyes have seen your salvation.”


She was nothing.

She was lowly and humble, yet the LORD had chosen her among all women.

Mary had nothing to offer but her obedience and praise. When the Maker of the world became the fruit of her womb, she responded in the only manner that made sense:

“My soul magnifies the Lord.”


He was a prophecy.

His life had been ordained from beyond his birth. He was the voice crying out in the wilderness making straight the way of the Lord.

In the womb, John jumped for joy when his Lord drew near. In life, he proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom. When he saw his Savior approach, he gave witness of all that had been made known to him:

“Behold, the Lamb of God!”


What about us?

We are faced with unspeakable evil every day. We are confronted with injustice, pride, greed, and apathy. The world is broken, seemingly beyond repair.

But we have seen the Lamb of God. He has been revealed to us in our lowly state. The darkness of our lives has been transformed by the truth and love of the great Light of the world. Our broken ways have been made straight. Our souls magnify the Lord for we have seen with our eyes His salvation.

But it cannot end there.

We are now faced with the same truths and the same impetus at Simeon, Mary, and John. Now that we have seen salvation with our eyes, it is for us to share this good news of great joy to the world. Our sins have been washed by the blood of the Lamb of God, so it is for us to proclaim his coming. We have been visited by the Great I AM, so our souls magnify the Lord.

We, who have been given this greatest gift, are now the gift-givers. We carry the light to a world stumbling in the darkness. We cry out to the lost that the Lamb of God has come and salvation is here. We live lives of praise to the only one who is worthy. How can we do anything less? Our eyes have seen His salvation and our spirits rejoice in God our Savior!

 

Merry Christmas from Rambling Ever On!

 




The Lines of Our Joy

Undoubtedly, no amount of writing
describes the unmeasured happy, leaping joy,
the loudly whooping folks and toys,

the happy days,
the mellow ways
the lays, the lines
streaming the tree of time,

doting time,
times of dreams
and dreams in dreams.

I’ll watch them laugh
all splayed with wishes and
ways of yuletide joy

in the measured time,
doting time,
dreams in tracks of time,

the happy days,
doting ways,
dipped in lays and lines
streaming the tree with times,

And no word or measure
defines our happy times and toys
nor the whistling tracks of our timeless joys.




The Winter Journey

Day 1 – Departure.

The wind whipped with an urgency that had been absent the past few weeks. The cold worked its way through the air, seeking any exposed skin it could find. The winter had been long and surprisingly fierce, bringing with it a yardstick of snow. School had been out for what felt like months, giving the small town of Anson Cove a seemingly permanent air of celebration. As the breeze stirred a final, powerful gust, the tall traveler turned and gazed sadly at the small town that had been his home. Away in the distance, the enthusiastic voices of children ebbed and flowed in song. They were singing to him. It was their goodbye – their farewell and well wishes for his journey north. He hesitated, attempting to convince himself that he did not have to go. Pushing those thoughts aside, he put his back to the voices and began to walk.


 Day 2 – A new beginning.

The first day had been hard. Every step had been a battle. He knew it was the right decision. He knew he really had no other choice. That knowledge didn’t make it any easier though.

After a full day of walking, he rose early and had put many miles behind him before the sun had made its bright and happy appearance. The day had dawned golden and clear. The air was still cold, but that was no problem. In truth, he loved the cold and could have lived in this chill forever. Today would be better, he thought. He lowered the bill of his hat to shield his eyes from the wind, and plowed ahead through the mounds of snow that lay before him.


Day 6 – Music in the night.

Winter’s end was imminent. He could feel the warmth working through his limbs as he made his way along the forest path. Even now, in the dead of night, the cold was less than it had been a few days ago in the full heat of the sun. His options were few. He had no choice but to press on and make it north. He had no choice but to keep going. He sang that night, trying to push away the fears and the doubts that filled his mind. His friends from Anson Cove had taught him a beautiful song, so he sang it loud. His lonely voice filling the woods with melody.


Day 14 – The harsh truth.

Winter was dead. He knew that could only mean one thing. The realization that he would not make it north filled him with a sadness so deep he struggled to keep moving. As far as his eyes could see, the snow was melting. Little green shoots of grass poked their way through the blanket of white, reaching desperately for the sun. The forest animals were busy now. They flitted and crawled, jumped and chittered in, around, and on the trees. It was everything he could do to keep moving. He felt tired and weak. His hat kept sliding down his head, moving with the moisture on his brow. This trip had taken its toll and he had lost so much weight. Desperate for rest and shade from the sun, he crawled beneath the canopy of a giant, weathered oak tree. The bark was rough against his back, but the sun did not reach him here and for that he was thankful.


 Day 22 – Despair.

It was over. His trip, which had begun with so much hope and promise, was nearing its end. He would never make it north. The last week had been the most difficult of his life. He was deathly thin and pale beyond words. His face was white; whiter than the snow that sat in small little clumps that dotted the landscape around him. The plan had been a good one: Head north. Stay ahead of the spring. He had hoped the winter would last a few weeks longer than usual, seeing how strong it had been. Instead, the seasons had changed early this year, and that had made the journey north impossibly difficult. He had never planned a trip such as this and mistakes had been made from the very beginning. His friends in Anson Cove had done all they could to encourage him. Especially the children. But it had all been in vain. These would be his final days. He knew the truth of that deep down. With a final, stubborn surge of energy, he quickened his pace.


Day 23 – The end.

He had found a small outcrop of rocks the previous night that offered a cool respite from the heat. The view from his final resting place was breathtaking. The leaves on the trees were a brighter shade of green he had ever seen. The birds, in joyful abandon, chirped out to everyone who could hear. The grass swayed playfully in the gentle southern wind. The sun, in all its life-giving glory, beamed warmth and light in every direction. If this was the end, it was as good of an ending as he could imagine. That made him smile.

His body was spent and wasting away. It would not be long now. He sensed the final moments peeking around the corner, yet he was at peace, knowing that he had been blessed with a good life. He had made so many friends during his days in Anson Cove. Those children had welcomed him into their lives completely. He was their friend. Their tears as he had said his goodbyes broke his heart yet filled him with such courage and strength. He would miss them all terribly.

He could feel the tug of death and knew he had only moments left. He chose to greet it with a song. A song he had learned from the children who were his dearest friends in the world. A song they had written about him. Summoning the last stores of willpower he possessed, he raised his head and sang with all the joy and love he could muster, “Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul!”




Son of God; Son of Man: Why Matthew’s Genealogy is More than a Boring List of Names

In talking with other Christians, I have noticed that most are tempted to skip over lists of names in the Bible and at best to skim them. I think we realize every word of the Bible is inspired for our benefit. But beyond that it is a mistake to overlook these lists for several other reasons. First, they often include details that make it easy to apply truths. For example, Nehemiah 3 lists the names of people who worked on the wall. In verse 5, he says that some nobles of the Tekoites did not lift a finger to help. Later in vs. 27 it says the Tekoites made other repairs, meaning they did double duty without all of their potential help.

Secondly, names matter to people who know the names because names tell the stories of history.  If I gave a list of names that included George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, most Americans would find the list interesting based on what these men accomplished whether it be good or bad.  If our role is to understand the Bible as closely to how the original audience understood it, we want to learn who these people are in biblical lists the way the original audience did.

So when Matthew begins his Gospel with a list of Christ’s ancestors from Mary and Joseph back to Abraham, we do well to try to note the significance of the names given. The opening to any writing is crucial to understanding the point of the writing. The fact Matthew begins this way leads me to believe we need to understand the family and people Christ was born into in order to understand his Gospel. Space does not permit a treatment of all 42 names. Many of them I do not have the knowledge to say anything edifying about. But I do want to look at a few through a series of facts about a few persons in Christ’s lineage. These facts can help us understand why Christ came to earth. We will see how his human family tree teaches us about how God views humanity as a whole. In the process, we will see how we should see Christ himself.

     [N]ames matter to people who know the names because names tell the stories of history.

1.   Matthew’s genealogy features five women.

It has been noted by many people that women were often second-class citizens in 1st century Jewish and Roman culture. However, throughout the New Testament women are shown to have played a key role. Matthew has several prominent women. Although a sinner like all of humanity, Mary is honored in Matthew as the mother of Jesus. She was also honored to be present when the wise men came to pay respects to her son, the Savior (Matthew 2:11). Women were also recorded as the first witnesses to the resurrection of Christ (Matthew 28:1-10). While nearly all of the apostles fled when Christ was arrested, it was women who followed Jesus until the very end (Matthew 27:55). But that wasn’t the beginning of God’s honor of women. The opening genealogy of Matthew highlights their value from the very beginning. Matthew with their importance as faithful servants in Christ’s coming into life and then suffering through but ultimately defeating death.  Women, especially by name, are scarce in Old Testament genealogies.  Matthew is doing something unique. Women make up a whopping 10% of his names.

2.   Four of the women mentioned are Gentiles from nations that were often Israel’s political and religious enemies.

Tamar was a descendant of Ham, a Canaanite, the people who occupied the promised land for centuries before the Jews took it back via war. Rahab was from Jericho, another city the Israelites had to conquer on their way to the promised land. Ruth was a Moabitess, a people that were banned for 10 generations from entering the Lord’s Assembly because of their hostility to Israel when they came out of Egypt. It is also worthy of note that Ruth was a poor, widowed immigrant, filling three of the categories God told Old Testament people to care for (Leviticus 19:9-10). And Bathsheba (“Uriah’s Wife”) was likely a Hittite, another group often listed alongside the Canaanites for having occupied the land that God gave to Israel.

What can we take from this? First, we can see that Christ somewhat multicultural. He had blood from several people groups. He was not a 100% ethnic Jew. For a people chosen by God to be the people through whom Messiah came, this is significant. Many Jews did not like hearing that Gentiles could be favored by God (Luke 4:16-30). But God is a God who cares about all nations and peoples. Ephesians 2:11-22 teaches that Christ’s death was supposed to tear down the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile. He shed his blood to bring nations together. Is it not fascinating that his blood line also declared his connection to Jew and Gentile alike? Matthew points out that Jesus’s blood combined a lot of Jews with four Gentile nations. His Body (the church) must actively seek to do what his blood did from birth to death–bring nations together to worship Him. Some of the greatest people in the Bible were easy to overlook because they were poor or of the wrong ethnicity.

     He shed his blood to bring nations together. Is it not fascinating that his blood line also declared his connection to Jew and Gentile alike?

Secondly we can also see how God is no respecter of persons. It does not matter the degree of one’s wickedness; if a person like Rahab follows by faith, God accepts him or her. The Bible teaches that we are all God’s enemies before we come to Christ (Romans 5:8), so we must be careful when viewing any group of people as God’s “enemies.” God can save anyone out of any situation. Ethnicity is irrelevant to him.

3.   Matthew’s genealogy contains the kingly line.

One of the most obvious differences in Matthew and Luke’s genealogies is that Luke lists King David as being the father of Nathan while Matthew lists him as being the father of Solomon, who succeeded him as king. In addition, the Matthew genealogy chronicles a succession of kings until the deportation of God’s people out of their homeland. Matthew’s list is the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph and not Mary, so while Christ was not physically descended from King Solomon, Matthew is highlighting his legal lineage with Joseph as his adoptive father. Christ was indeed to become king. He was and is still considered the “King of Kings” to his followers (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16).

What does this teach us?  Matthew portrays Jesus as a King from beginning to end: the wise men sought him out as king of the Jews (Matthew 2:2). His enemies scoffed at him for claiming to be a king when he died (Matthew 27:42).  Some form of “king” or “kingdom” is used in Matthew more than the other Gospels. Jesus preached constantly about the “Kingdom of Heaven” and recognized his kingship both to his followers (Matthew 21:5) and to Pilate (Matthew 27:11).

Jesus was a king, but not a king like David or Solomon. He associated with and served the lowly. He didn’t live in a palace and sometimes even appeared to be a roaming vagabond (Matthew 8:20). He came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20;28). Jesus, the highest king of all, lived humility. He showed His followers how even the greatest serve the lowest in his kingdom. He desires us to be poor in heart (Matthew 5:3) and modeled this.The greatest in a line of great kings did this!

4.   Matthew’s genealogy doesn’t hide God’s people’s worst sins, but highlights God’s ability to use it for His Glory.

If you read the story of Tamar and Judah and how Perez came to be born in Genesis 38 (I won’t give the details, but I strongly recommend reading it carefully), you may be surprised at why Matthew would mention it so plainly in the familial history of Christ. If you read the story of how David came to be with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11-12, you may be surprised why Matthew mentions her.  It is like he made sure to remind his first readers of who Solomon’s mother was.  You may be surprised to find out that many of the kings in this genealogy were wicked men.

     Jesus came from adulterers and prostitutes and murderers and idolaters.  We all fit in at least some of these categories.  And so Matthew makes sure to remind us that Jesus was born not just into a dirty, sinful world, but into a dirty, sinful family. 

Yet, I think God did this on purpose.  All throughout the Old and New Testaments, God highlights the failures of men – from Moses to Jonah to Peter to Paul.  And it is not to trash humanity unnecessarily and haughtily. It is to remind us of why we need Jesus in the first place. Jesus came from adulterers and prostitutes and murderers and idolaters.  We all fit in at least some of these categories.  And so Matthew makes sure to remind us that Jesus was born not just into a dirty, sinful world, but into a dirty, sinful family.  We know Christ was without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) but we know that he was fully aware as a human what humans were capable of.  His family and his followers in general were not without sin.  They needed his birth for the same reasons we all do.

God values women.  God values all nations, even those who are hostile to him and his people.  God values humility even in the highest positions.  And God values taking broken, messed up, sinful situations and using them to produce the most amazing things that there can be, even the birth of a Savior.  We get this from every genre in the Bible – narratives, letters, psalms, even ‘boring’ genealogies.  Therefore we must appreciate them for what they can teach us about God and how he sees us and how Christ connects us to him.  Names are stories and in the Bible the are The Story of God’s redemption of man to himself.




The Star of Bethlehem

Where went the heavenly starlight,
where,
that beamed
across our blazing souls?

In times before,
the constellations were
myths and legends;

in times before, I tried to squash the stars in flight.

When the star transpired,
the star of Bethlehem,

the star, he clapped like thunder in the night.

In the starlight
we saw the face of God,
there, when His world
met our moments,
the
centuries without.

Said He, Faith,
advance;
this shall be our unification.

The star of God, the star is our star of light

and
hope.

the Star, He claps like thunder in the night.