Wednesday, December 18, 2013

God's Best Gift in the Worst Times

"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity." And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth.  This One will be our peace. Micah 5:2,4-5a

On Hampton Plantation in coastal South Carolina there used to live an elderly sharecropper, illiterate but very wise. One of his favorite sayings was this: If you ain’t in trouble, your prayers ain’t got no suction.”  Translation: It is our desperation that increases our determination to draw God to us in time of trouble.

The Bible declares that our extremity is God’s opportunity. God is most likely to be found at your wit’s end, just when you need Him most, when you have run out of answers and almost out of hope.  Consider the great prophets of the Old Testament: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah. These were not prosperity prophets. No, they were aroused by God in times of crisis, even of national disaster.

Jesus did not visit this planet when we became good enough to receive him. “While we were yet sinners,” says the Bible, “Christ died for the ungodly.”  He faced us at our worst, and loved us anyway, all the way to a cross.

What does this mean for you and me in this season? It means this: Those who enter this holy season with the greatest needs stand the best chance of encountering the Messiah.  What causes me to believe this?  I’ll tell you.  I got it straight from an Old Testament prophet named Micah.
Seven hundred years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Micah was called by God to speak his word to the nation of Judah.  Though just a simple farmer, he was utterly fearless.  The national situation was awful: morals were low, crime was rampant, the government was decadent, the courts were corrupt, most organized religion was formalistic and cold, and the dominant religion was materialism.  Yes, that could be a description of contemporary America, but actually I’m talking about Judah in 700 B.C.  To make matters worse, Judah was a tiny nation precariously perched between two hostile superpowers--Assyria and Egypt.  The nation had about as much security as a fly in a room full of lizards.

At that critical moment, Micah lambasted the nation’s sin.  But he did much more than that.  Inspired by God, he looked out into the future and said: A Messiah will be born in tiny Bethlehem.  God is going to send someone great to us.  So don’t despair.  God has good news coming!
Micah and his people could only look forward to the Messiah’s coming at some future date.  We are much more fortunate.  We live in the afterglow of a Bethlehem manger, an atoning cross, and an empty tomb. What Micah could only promise, we can actually receive and appropriate.  The Bethlehem arrival of God’s Son has brought us peace and power.  Though the world may not be changed, we can be.  This One will be our peace.

Scripture to Claim:

Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.
Luke 2:14

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