Prayer Psalm: 37 Prayer Point: I am tempted to stop walking with Jesus when I envy the success of wicked people. Is the struggle worth it? Psalm 37 asks us to see the world from God’s perspective. Pray that you might have compassion on the “successful” as you consider their eternal destiny and pray for the faith to trust in the Lord, delight yourself in him, be still before him and wait patiently for him this Advent season.
Luke 22:1-13 The Feast of Unleavened Bread, also called the Passover, celebrated Israel’s liberation after 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Unleavened bread was eaten by the Israelites on the eve of their liberation because their freedom came so suddenly there was no time to let the dough rise. Passover refers to the Angel of Death who struck down the firstborn of every Egyptian family, but when the angel saw the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts of the Jewish homes, he “passed over” the house, sparing the first born. Look for Luke in the next couple of chapters to connect Jesus to the Passover and the Passover Lamb. Why were the chief priests and teachers of the law having trouble arresting Jesus? How do they find an opportunity to arrest him secretly? How does Jesus demonstrate his power and authority in the instructions for the Passover preparations he gives to his disciples?
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 The “day of the Lord” refers the day of Christ’s return to earth when evil will be destroyed and God’s kingdom will be fully established on earth forever. Apparently there were teachers who had come through Thessalonica teaching that Christ had already returned. You can imagine the confusion and concern this would have caused. What two things, must happen before Christ’s return (verses 3-4)? The figure described in verses 3 and 4 as the “man of lawlessness” and the “man doomed to destruction” has come to be known as the “Anti-Christ.” This Anti-Christ is not Satan himself, but a person through whom Satan acts. You can think of him as a counterfeit Jesus who falsely claims to be God. This did not mean that Satan was not operating in the world at that time (see verse 7), but that the final expression of Satan’s power was being withheld until just before his end (see verse 6). It will be distressing to see the counterfeit “Jesus” come. How will the deception of the masses serve God’s purposes (see verses 9-12)?
Isaiah 7:1-9 Ahaz and His Enemies Who is Ahaz? (Ahaz is the son of Jotham and grandson of Uzziah, king of Judah. As if things are not confusing enough already, Uzziah was also known as Azariah. Uzziah (Azariah) was a “good” king in Judah and sought the LORD during the time he was consolidating his own power. Once he became strong, he didn’t need the LORD anymore and so became proud. In a fit of pride, Uzziah took it upon himself to burn incense before the LORD in the temple. The Levitical law only allowed for priests to burn incense before the Lord. Even Aaron’s two oldest sons (themselves priests) burned what was termed “unauthorized” fire before the Lord, and for their efforts they were themselves consumed in fire. So the business of burning incense before the Lord is a particularly serious one. When the priests saw what the king was doing they remonstrated him for his action and at the very same moment he was afflicted with leprosy. Since he was then deemed “unclean” his son Jotham ruled the kingdom as regent until the death of Uzziah. At this point Uzziah’s need for the Lord became evident. Alas, that is the last time we hear of Uzziah. Jotham was also a “good” king and followed after the Lord. He prospered and did not repeat the mistakes of his father. Along comes Ahaz. Ahaz was of different stripe than his father and grandfather. He turned completely away from the God of his fathers to follow after false gods and even stooped so low as to offer his sons in fire to Molech, an Ammonite god. (Ammon was the region east northeast of the Jordan.) This put him at variance with God who visited upon him his enemies in great number. Let’s just say that Ahaz would be in no mood to receive the local prophet. Ahaz is very nervous and easily frightened (with good reason).) What is Isaiah’s message to Ahaz? (“And the Lord said to Isaiah, ‘Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s field. And say to him, “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, ‘Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,’ thus says the Lord God: ‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.'” (Isaiah 7:3-9 ESV) Ahaz has to be asking himself, Why would the LORD want to help me? That really is a good question for which I don’t have an answer. — j.t.)