The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
A recurring theme in both the Old Testament and the New Testament is the glory of God. The NLT Study Bible states that ‘God’s glory is the manifestation of his person, his power and his majesty’. Throughout the Bible, we witness countless examples. Let’s look at some of these.
For a period of about two years, the land of Egypt was ravaged by plagues sent by God. In Exodus 7:17 we read of God saying to Pharaoh, “I will show you that I am the Lord”. The Egyptians had more ‘gods’ than any society at that time yet, as God targeted a different deity with each successive plague, one by one, the most important ‘gods’ were shown to be powerless.
One example of this is when the Nile was turned into blood. The Egyptians worshiped several Gods connected to the river. So, when the river turned to blood, it would have seemed to the Egyptians as though the Nile gods had been killed. God revealed his glory. None were able to stand before his mighty person, power and majesty.
Some centuries later, King Solomon built a temple where God could dwell. At the dedication of the Temple, we read:
When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of the Lord.” (1 Kings 8:10-11)
His power and majesty were on display that day.
Centuries later a day came, when Jesus was invited to a wedding celebration in Cana, Galilee. In this famous story, we read of Jesus turning water into wine. In John 2:11 we read “This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” His disciples became aware of his person, his power and his majesty. Thousands of others would discover this same truth in the ensuing three years, and countless others in the two millennia that have followed since his death and resurrection, which is perhaps the ultimate display of his glory.
However, there is another thought that is linked to this and it is the thought that we, the followers of Jesus Christ can bring glory to Him. But how do we this? We do this as we speak and act in such a way that demonstrates that we acknowledge who God is. 1 Peter 2:12 instructs us to:
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Isn’t it a beautiful thought that there is something we can do to bring our Saviour glory? We do this when we choose to do the right thing. We bring glory to God when when we say ‘not my will, but yours be done’. We do it when we joyfully choose the path less trodden because it is the one that leads us to Christ. Let’s remember this as we go about our daily lives this week with all the challenges and opportunities we will have to bring God glory.
“It is a great privilege to do anything for the King.” C. H. Spurgeon
He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalms 91:10)
My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.
(Song of Songs 2:14)
If you had asked a Jewish person at the time of Jesus, what the holiest place on earth was, he would have answered without hesitation - the holy of holies. The Hebrew name is ‘kodesh hakodashim’. It was in the temple in Jerusalem. To access it, you had to pass through a number of courts, all of which admitted fewer and fewer people until, only one man, once a year, was granted access to the holy of holies. It was in the innermost chamber, the secret place. The one day in the year that the high priest entered was called Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement. As one writer has said, ‘It was ‘the holiest act, in the holiest place on the holiest day of the year’.
I have sometimes tried to picture the crowd standing outside the temple, knowing that the High Priest, that very moment was standing in the presence of God. I have wondered if something of that holy presence in the kodesh hakodashim, permeated out to the waiting pilgrims. Would those outside have experienced a sense of the holiness? Sadly, only one man could every enter in and experience the glory of God for Himself.
However, since AD 70, with the destruction of the Temple, that holiest place, that secret place, no longer exists. Some time before that, an even greater secret place replaced the kodesh hakodashim where God now meets with man. It’s the place where you come alone, away from all others around you, close the door and meet with Him. It’s your own personal, secret place.
In Hebrews 10:19-22 we read, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
We no longer have to linger outside the holiest place, like the pilgrims of old. Gods wants to see our faces, He wants to hear our voices. Are you taking time each day to resort to the secret place and enjoy the pleasures that only His presence can bring?
Now I can go into the holy of holies
I can kneel and make my petition known
I can go into the holy of holies
And although I’m just a common man
Because of God’s redemption plan
I can boldly approach the throne
Pauline Ann Anderson
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart. (Psalms 24:3-5)
Many years ago, I read a book called Hinds’ Feet on High Places. It's an allegory that recounts the story of a girl called Much Afraid who has been called by the Shepherd (Christ), to travel to a place of maturity. However, in order to do that, there was much cleansing and purifying that had to take place along the way. To help Much Afraid reach the high places she is guided by her two companions Sorrow and Suffering.
The Hebrew word 'aliyah' means ‘ascent' or ‘rise'. In John’s gospel we read of Jesus making the ascent to Jerusalem.
John 2:13 When the Jewish Passover was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
John 5:1 Some time later there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
The city of Jerusalem lies approximately 2,500 feet above sea level on a relatively high mountain ridge so Jesus would literally have been climbing up to Jerusalem. Psalms 120-134 bear the label ‘songs of ascent’. Many scholars believe that these psalms were sung by worshippers walking up the road to Jerusalem for the three great pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Tabernacles and Pentecost, or by the priests as they climbed the 15 steps for their service in the temple, symbolically ascending to God.
God is always beckoning us to come up higher to a cleaner, wider and holier place. He has set His heart on leading us to the high places where we too, like Much Afraid, can leave the lower levels of spiritual life and rise to a place of maturity. We read these beautiful words:
The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:19)
Can you feel the draw? Is there a longing in your heart to ascend? Do you wish that you too could have hinds’ feet and walk on high places? If so, then learn a lesson from Much Afraid. In order to ‘clean your hands’ and ‘purify your heart’, you have to accept the companions He gives you to guide you to that place no matter how uncomfortable their presence may seem. Could ‘Loneliness’ in lockdown be one of the companions that has been assigned to you in recent months? Or perhaps it’s ‘ Boredom’ or ‘ Frustration’. At first, Much Afraid shrank away with dreading from her companions but, in time, she learned that the Shepherd had chosen rightly. You can learn that too as you persevere in your journey to the high places.
The song of the high mountains is calling me
And all the sunlit valleys speak my name
Shining rivers call me on
So Lord I come, Lord I come
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14 )
I was reading an article recently by a Messianic Jew who was explaining the derivation of the Hebrew word ‘midbar’ which means wilderness. It actually comes from the root word ‘davar’ which means to speak.
A wilderness is not an inviting place. It certainly would not be a popular holiday destination. We describe a wilderness with words like ‘barren, hot, uninviting, forbidding and parched’. But as the writer points out, there is something important missing from the wilderness; it is devoid of distractions.
One of the devil’s devices that he uses to keep us from God is to fill our lives with distractions. These come in many shapes and forms. Some are legitimate, everyday necessities. Some are related to leisure, and many are just time wasters. Throughout all of this, God is trying to speak to us, trying to draw us closer to himself. But sometimes, the distractions shout so loudly in our ears that we can’t hear the still small voice that is calling to us.
For this reason, God allows wilderness seasons to come in to our life, seasons where the distractions cease, and we are alone with Him and He can speak to us. For many people this last year has been like that. Many of the old distractions have been stripped away as we have found ourselves cut off from friends, family, church and, in many cases work. God has brought us into a wilderness, and many have found that in this season that the ‘midbar’ has become a place of precious union and communion with God. There will be many people who will never be the same after this time in the wilderness. Some lives have been permanently changed. In the wilderness, like Moses and Elijah, they have met with God.
This ‘midbar’ season will end, sooner or later. Meanwhile, enjoy what God is doing and let it be a time of renewing and refreshing. Don’t lose this opportunity. Find out what God wants to speak to you about during your time in the ‘midbar’.
‘Solitude with God repairs the damage done by the fret and noise and clamour of the world’.
"My child, don't make light of the Lord's discipline, and don't give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child." (Hebrews 12:5-6)
The apostle Peter is the best known of the apostles and possibly the best loved by most Christians. He was courageous, brave, full of life and a born leader.
Despite this, Peter didn’t always get things quite right but, we can learn much to help us by observing how he dealt with the aftermath of these situations.
We are all familiar with the cry of Peter, when having stepped out of the security of a boat on a stormy night, he begins to sink as he walks towards Jesus.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me! (Matthew 14:29)
On another occasion, when Jesus began to explain to his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things, Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.””
Finally, in a time of extreme weakness Peter did the unthinkable, he denied three times that he knew Jesus.
One reason why Peter came through these times to victory was that he refused to give up. He refused to throw in the towel. Yes, he had made a mistake, but he didn’t allow that mistake to end his relationship with Jesus. He didn’t go to Jesus and hand in his resignation as an apostle, citing that he just wasn’t the man for the job.
Peter didn’t sit down and take offence when Jesus rebuked him. Nor did he have a pity party and buy into the lie that he just wasn’t good enough. He accepted his mistake and got up to try again.
I think, however, the main reason why Peter stuck to the course even in times of failure was quite simply because he loved Jesus. The thought of not having Jesus as a part of his life was unbearable. He would have taken any rebuke, public or private, so long as he had his friend Jesus on his side.
Aren’t you glad that Peter didn’t let his failures define him? Aren’t you glad that he repented, got up and got on with the task in hand? I am.
“Do not gloat over me, my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again." (Micah 7:8)
When we read the story of Leah, the daughter of Laban, we find a woman who truly drank the bitter draught of disappointment.
Leah was his older daughter yet, for some reason, was still unmarried. We are told that she had ‘weak eyes’ and was outshone in beauty by her younger sister, Rachel.
When a potential male suitor named Jacob arrived, she was spurned and her sister was preferred..
She took part in a plan of deception where she married Jacob but, awoke the first morning as a new bride to hear her husband probably shouting at her father saying, “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?”(Genesis 29:25) Not the words of encouragement and endearment a bride wants to hear on her first day of marriage!!
One week later, Jacob takes Rachel as his bride and we read ‘the LORD saw that Leah was unloved’.
Poor Leah! Even after bearing four sons to Jacob in rapid succession, she is left in the shadows, battling rejection, un-love, humiliation and disappointment. She would walk through life feeling second best, never quite good enough. Nothing she achieved seem to bring the response from her husband that she desired. Disappointment would never be far from her door.
However, this is far from being the end of the story. Rachel was loved by Jacob, but Leah was chosen by God! When God chose a woman to be the mother of the priestly tribe of Levi, it wasn’t Rachel who was afforded the honour; it was Leah. Through that same tribe, Moses the Lawgiver would emerge and would point the people to God. And it was the Levities, into whose hands were entrusted the holy articles of the Tabernacle, and later, the Temple. However, undoubtedly, the greatest honour that was bestowed upon Leah was that she was the mother of Judah, whose tribe became the kingly tribe. It was from this tribe that King David would come and, ultimately, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Saviour who would deliver us from our sins. In her disappointment, Leah could never have imagined what honours were being bestowed upon her.
Sometimes, our dreams and desires don’t materialise the way we had hoped. Leah could only see a small part of what God was doing in her life. She didn’t understand that, in spite of the seeming failure, he was working to perform a feat that would bring blessing for all eternity to mankind. I think she would now agree that that was of more value that the fleeting, momentary love of Jacob.
Let’s learn from Leah’s experience to trust God in our times of disappointment and remember the principle:
"Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25)
By looking to Him, we ‘will rise again’ and move forward to face our tomorrows with new joy in our hearts. As Spurgeon said, ‘Don’t say disappointment. Say His-appointment’.
You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
When I was young, my parents used to take me and my sisters to a little town on the east coast of Scotland each year on holiday. For seven consecutive years I splashed about in the sea and loved the feel of the sand under my feet. There was a park near to where we stayed. It had tall fir trees that generously shed their cones and these provided an abundance of ammunition for our fir cone fights.
There was an old castle which had been turned into a museum. Since one of my sisters and I had made friends with the staff, we had the jaw dropping privilege of getting taken out onto the battlements one evening to lower the flag. We were taken down into the dark dungeons where suits of armour etc were stored. To a nine year old, that part was a little bit scary. We were practically given the run of the castle for two weeks each summer.And then there were our holiday friends, our unhealthy café lunches of pie, beans and chips followed later in the afternoon at times with ice cream.
I never willingly left that place. I harboured a longing that my parents would one day announce that we were leaving Glasgow and going to stay in my beloved holiday haven. As a child, it was my little bit of heaven on earth.
I have often pondered the sacrifice of our Saviour on leaving Heaven to rescue us from Hell. We read that;
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (John 1:1-3)
He lived as part of the Godhead in Heaven, one with the Father and the Spirit. He spoke creation into being, He watched the fall of man and he looked on as men continued on their downward spiral of destruction.
He knew the time was coming for Him to leave Heaven and ‘He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8). And what’s more, He did it willingly.
Friend, are you struggling to give something to Christ today that is dear to your heart? Are you trying to hold on to a childhood dream, a long held ambition?
Could you now, quietly but willingly, approach Him and give Him what he is asking of you? You may not be given your dreams back but, in return he’ll give you His dreams. Christ was glad to make the great sacrifice that He did for us; you’ll never regret making that sacrifice for Him.
Pauline Ann Anderson
You make known to me the path of life. (Psalm 16:11)
Recently I was listening to a story where a group of people aboard a small rowing boat were navigating their way through the entrance to an island. Between them and the island lay a minefield of dangerous rocks with the waves crashing mercilessly upon them. An encounter with any of the rocks could have led to injury or death. However, the navigator being familiar with this island, knew every danger and had learned deftly how to avoid them and land themselves and their crew safely on shore.
Life can be a bit like navigating precarious pathways through the sea. The sea of our lives is filled with rocks called temptation others called bitterness, jealousy, resentment, fear....the rocks are endless. They are waiting for us to crash into them and wreck our little boats. So how can we navigate safely through this pathway until we reach our final destination?
The opening verses in the Book of Proverbs can help us.
These are the proverbs of Solomon... Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair. (Proverbs 1:1,3 NLT)
As we read Proverbs and other books in the Bible, we learn how to sail wisely, in ways that will enable us to recognise the dangers lurking in our path, and to steer a course that keeps us sailing Godward.
Nicky Gumble of Alpha course fame said:
‘Wisdom is the art of steering through the battles and blessings of life and living skilfully in whatever conditions you find yourself.’
The Bible is the navigation chart that God has provided for us on our sometimes-dangerous voyage. It guides us as we seek to make right choices. Let’s make full use of this and other guideposts during 2021.
‘It is finished’. (Rev 21:6)
For many, 2020 has been a year that has brought great difficulty and trials. It has been a year where they have lamented the loss of their liberty, mourned the passing of loved ones, felt the hardship of poverty and missed the company of close comrades. Life as they knew it has changed irrevocably and a season of suffering has been entered in to.
You may be traveling through a valley of shadow right now. You may be experiencing loneliness and loss. But don’t forget the words of the apostle Paul, a man well acquainted with suffering. One day, when trying to bring suffering into perspective, he wrote:
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
Amongst the most famous words that Jesus spoke from the cross, was the triumphant cry, “It is finished” (John 18:30). He had completed the work He had come to earth to do. This was echoed by the clarion call that rang out through the courts of the new heaven and the new earth.“It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End”. (Revelation 21:6) God was declaring the establishment of a new heaven and a new earth where we can look forward to a life without death or suffering or impurity or night. And, best of all, we can look forward to a perfect relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
There was an old chorus written by Ester Rusthoi we used to sing that many of us loved:
‘It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!
Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ.
One glimpse of his dear face, all sorrow will erase.
So, bravely run the race till we see Christ.’
Whatever you have experienced in 2020, remember what Billy Graham once said, ‘I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out alright’.
This God—his way is perfect. (Psalm 18:30)
Though Christmas celebrations this year will be on a much smaller scale across our land, it is still a time when we rejoice and give heartfelt thanks to God for Jesus Christ. At the heart of most celebrations there are three main ingredients; the company of loved ones, food, and laughter.
For years, I have puzzled over this last ingredient; laughter. Why do we never read in the Bible that Jesus laughed? We are told plainly that at the tomb of Lazarus, ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35). It was clear also that his emotions ran high as he witnessed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. And on two occasions we read of his disgust at what the money changers and vendors were doing in God’s house of prayer. But we never read that He laughed. We know He must have laughed from time to time, so why the silence?
I am indebted to Joni Eareckson Tada for shining a light on this for me. She wrote:
"So why is Scripture devoid of any reference to Jesus laughing? I can make a good guess: the book ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’. After reading the horrors of World War I, I had a pretty good idea as to why the Gospels leave out any record of our Lord laughing.' As grieving mothers and brokenhearted widows opened their Bibles in search of comfort, they didn’t have to worry about being assaulted by passages depicting Jesus breaking out in a belly laugh. Instead they opened their Bibles and found a man of sorrows with whom they could deeply identify:
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered..." (Hebrews 5:7-9).
It is in this picture the suffering find comfort.” *
We know from testimony that when men and women find themselves incarcerated, it is during these times of loneliness, apprehension and fear, that many turn to the Bible. How many millions of people down through the ages have been ministered to as they have sought comfort and solace in hours of suffering in the pages of this book?
It was in His wisdom and compassion that God hid the laughter of Christ from us to give us something that we need much more.
Thank God this Christmas; He makes no mistakes.
*More Precious than Silver by Joni Eareckson Tada Copyright © 1998 Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids
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