“Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. And his mother treasured all that was said in her heart.” (Luke 2:51, Mounce NT)

I find it interesting that Luke chooses to say that Jesus was obedient to his parents when he returned from their (mis)adventures in Jerusalem. Luke is trying to tell us something with that comment. He has already recounted how the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said that she would bear Messiah.  This is the Great Deliverer for whom Israel was waiting (with all their misunderstanding about exactly how and from what they would be delivered).

He is at the age of twelve.  He is in Jerusalem by himself arguing/discussing with the greatest Jewish minds of the day.  This is no ordinary twelve year-old.  He returns to Nazareth…and was obedient to them.  The Messiah, the King, the Deliverer, Immanuel (God with us), is obedient to his parents.  Jesus somehow manages to pull off both his roles as Messiah and as righteous Jewish son perfectly.  Amazing.

Mounce’s Expository Dictionary comments here: “Luke clearly accentuates that while Jesus was chiefly submissive to the authority of the Scriptures and his heavenly Father, he was also “subject” to his parents (Lk. 2:51; NIV “obedient”). God expected his Son to obey his parents, and he voluntarily did so.”

For a funny take on Joseph and Mary and losing Jesus in Jerusalem see here:

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And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;” (Luke 1:46–48, ESV)

Mary’s reaction to the news that she will bear Messiah is to praise God and to rejoice in God my Savior.  Surely, at this time, she did not understand what she meant when she said that God was her Savior, though she would come to understand, but it would take time.

I love the word “magnify.” It means “to extol, to praise, to declare as great, to lift up,” and this Mary does as she sings her beautiful song that we are still studying and rejoicing in after 2000 years.  Her song has a remarkable resemblance to Hannah’s prayer in 1 Sam 2, with which Mary must have been familiar.

Our response today when we come to understand the greatness of the Lord and the greatness of his salvation, ought to be along the lines of Mary: magnification and rejoicing in God my Savior.  

Oh…and this is the best rendition of Mary’s song put to music of which I know:

Hate wrong、 and love right, And station Justice in the gate,— Peradventure Yahweh、 God of hosts、 will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.” (Amos 5:15, EMPH)

I’m reading through The Emphasized Bible this year for my Bible reading.  It’s not a great translation, and the language is definitely dated, but it has moments when I really like the way it translates individual verses, as here for instance.  I like the imagery that is produced by the words: station Justice in the gate.

The translator capitalizes “Justice” to force us to think about her as “Lady Justice,” as this concept that, because God is God, must be obviously present in the life of Israel.  The reason that Justice should be stationed in the gate is because it was in the gates of the city where the city elders sat and adjudicated civil (and criminal) matters that concerned the city and its inhabitants.  So if Lady Justice is sitting in the gates of a particular city, then that city will be righteous because her affairs will be handled rightly, in a way that honors God.

Therefore, if Lady Justice is present, the wealthy will not be preferred over the poor, but the two will be equal when it comes to matters of law.  Orphans and widows will not be neglected because they do not have a champion, instead the law will ensure that they are treated fairly and correctly.  The problem in Amos’ time was that justice was not being done, widows and orphans were neglected, wrong was loved and right was hated.  Everything was topsy-turvy to the way that God had commanded the life of the nation to operate.  Amos rightly condemns this.

As followers of Christ we ought to be on the side of Lady Justice, not when it is convenient, or when we happen to agree with it, and not when it is merely politically expedient to do so.  We ought to be on the side of justice because this is God-honoring, and we ought to be there no matter the consequences to our reputation or particular choice in political parties.

Let the entire universe erupt with praise to God.
From nothing to something he spoke, and created it all. (Psalms 148:5, Passion Translation)

Every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every year, the universe does what the psalmist calls it to do: Let the entire universe erupt with praise to God. We hear it in the rising of the sun each day (even in cloudy Michigan); we hear it each evening as the sunset paints the sky with purples, oranges, greys, and blacks; we hear it as we pass by the ungainly Sandhill Cranes that spend 9 months of every year foraging in and around our farm fields; we can’t help but catch our breath in wonder when we hear it in the whites and greens and reds of the aurora borealis, in the matchless wonder of the southern cross constellation, in the return of spring, in the rain that falls, and in the sum total of all creation everywhere.  They have one duty and they do it oh-so-well; they praise their creator in an eruption of praise that cannot be missed except by willful choice.  From nothing to something he spoke, and created it all!

Spurgeon writes here: “Those who were created by command are under command to adore their Creator. The voice which said “Let them be”, now saith “Let them praise.”

Amen and Amen.

He heals the wounds of every shattered heart. (Psalms 147:3, Passion Translation)

There is a lot packed into a few words here.  First, there is the acknowledgement that there are “shattered hearts” among us.  The Christian faith jumps down into the gritty alley of life right along with us and engages us at a realistic level.  It does not seek to minimize or deny our reality.

Second, the Lord knows which hearts are shattered and why the need mending and how they need mending.  There is no hurt that goes unnoticed by Our Lord, no one who is overlooked because he is too busy, no lost sheep whom he forgets about.

Third, the Lord enters into the brokenness of the world with us.  This is significant.  He not only knows and cares about us, but God the Son entered into the brokenness and was here with us, understands the difficulties we face, and has great compassion for us.

Finally, the Lord heals our wounds.  He doesn’t just know about shattered hearts, he works to heal the wounds.  I love how the prophet Isaiah put this truth:

He protects His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in the fold of His garment. He gently leads those that are nursing.” (Isaiah 40:11, HCSB)

 

 

Weak and feeble ones, you will sustain.
Those bent over with burdens of shame, you will lift up. (Psalms 145:14, Passion Translation)

One of the beautiful things about the Christian faith (and one of the reason I think it is true) is the way that it handles shame.  That all of us carry burdens of shame due to past sins, current attitudes, feuds we have with others, poor choices that we have made, or even sinful choices that others have made that have affected us, is indisputable as the rising of the sun.  Shame is there, but how can we deal with it?  How can we be rid of these burdens of shame that weigh us down?

Mankind tries various ways to handle shame.  We try to ignore it, which neither works, nor relieves us of the shame.  We try to anesthetize it with drugs, alcohol, and various other stimulants or depressants, this works temporarily, but does not take away the shame and indeed leaves us worse off than before.  We can take the Buddhist approach and deny the shame, which has the advantage of helping us cope, but of course the shame is not taken away, we’ve just managed to convince ourselves that it isn’t there, or at least isn’t going to affect us.  Atheism is of little use, because it has nothing to deal with shame and we are left limping along with our burden, unable to either rid ourselves of it, or convince ourselves that it isn’t important.

The elegance of the Christian faith is that it doesn’t deny our shame, indeed it rather painfully points it out.  However, we are not left alone to wallow in miserable shame.  We come to the cross and Jesus nails it there, where it is paid for in full, where he takes it on himself, and we are free.  Shame is real.  Shame is painful.  Jesus came to deal with shame and free us from slavery to it, or as Paul points out:

He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. (Col 2.13b-14) .

Shame?  Nailed to the cross.  Sins?  Forgiven. Debt? Paid for.  Result? Freedom.

Like I said, elegant.

“For God is not so unjust as to forget your work and the love you have demonstrated for his cause, when you served and continue to serve fellow believers. But we want each one of you to demonstrate the same earnestness to the very end for the fulfillment of your hope,” (Hebrews 6:10–11, Mounce NT)

One of the things we do to prevent complacency as airlines pilots is to remember that the flight isn’t over until we set the breaks and shut down at the gate. It’s all too easy to think that once the aircraft has touched down, the flight is over, but of course it isn’t.  Pilots can and do make mistakes taxiing in, not the least of which is forget to shut down the engines when they actually reach the gate (it’s easier to make this mistake than you might think, though it is rare).

I like how the writer of Hebrews juxtaposes hope with exhortation in our two verses.  On the one hand, he points out that God is not ignorant of the work that we accomplish as we follow him.  He sees. He knows.  However, we cannot rest on the laurels of past faithfulness, we must press on in faithfulness to Christ, firm until the end.  The author of Hebrews calls each of his readers to demonstrate the same earnestness to the very end. Meaning of course, either to the end of the believer’s life, or until the day that Jesus returns for us.

The fact of the matter is that as we age, we cannot accomplish all that we have done before in faithfulness to Christ, a fact which, Jesus himself completely understands.  He calls us to sustained faithfulness.  He will take care of the outcome, we are only called to be faithful where we are, with all the limitations, shortcomings, and weaknesses that we might have.