Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors. — Isaiah 53:10-12
It may seem strange to have a Christmas devotional titled: “The Wonderful Cross”, but it’s no accident. We have the benefit of knowing the story of not just the birth of Jesus, but His life, death, and resurrection too. When we become fixated on one part of the story of Jesus, we forget the beauty of the whole plan. What makes Isaiah so powerful to me is the clarity in which it spoke hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus. Clearly this prophetic writing was spoken from the mouth of God and clearly defined His plan for salvation.
They say, “hindsight is 2020”. This means we can look back with perfect clarity and see the past with all its twists and turns and live in the after moment with perfect clarity of what has occurred. It is easy to be faithful after the miracle, not so much in the midst of unfulfilled promises. Several things stick out in today’s focal Scripture: “it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer”. Jesus didn’t suffer apart from God’s will, He suffered at the center of God’s will. There in the midst of God’s perfect plan, His own Son was “crushed” for our sins so that we could be forgiven and free. In light of this free gift of salvation given the first Christmas morning, what hope do we have if we reject so great a salvation?
God’s plan for the suffering of Jesus wasn’t simply to satisfy His anger and wrath against sin. Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins so that we could become the sons and daughters of God. He “bore” our sin so that we could be made righteous through our faith in Jesus. In John 11:49-50 the high priest named Caiaphas said “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man dies for the people than that the whole nation perish”. Although the high priest didn’t know what he was saying… he was speaking divine truth. Remember, Jesus could have never come to the cross at Calvary without coming first through the virgin, born in Bethlehem, as “God with us”.
As your heart continues to turn to Bethlehem, know that this road is not an easy one. The truth is always true even when it’s difficult to understand or accept. Don’t forget two important truths as you prepare to celebrate Christmas: God loves you (more than you could ever know), and He gave everything so you could be forgiven and free. The gift that God gave was Himself. The Creator stepped down into creation to suffer at the hands of His creation so we wouldn’t be doomed to live apart from Him in our sin.
Father, thank you for your perfect plan. Often, we resist suffering, run from correction, and reject truth when it hurts. Let us fix our eyes and hearts on Jesus the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Let us not demand an answer for the suffering in our lives, but let us look to Jesus as our example. Instead of demanding justification, let our hearts cry out for Your will to be accomplished. Give us strength in our weakness. Give us peace in this dark world. Help us shine brightly as our hearts are filled with awe and wonder of the great gift of salvation you have given us in Your only Son Jesus. We pray all these things in Jesus name, amen.
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” — Isaiah 42:1-4
As our hearts turn to Bethlehem and that first Christmas morning, it’s hard to imagine just how perfectly wonderful Jesus is. As I read today’s focal Scripture this question comes to mind: how can this servant bring justice to the nations with such a gentle demeanor? As you read you see that this servant “will not shout or cry out”, yet he will bring justice to the nations. This servant will not “raise his voice in the streets”, but he will bring forth justice. He “will not falter or be discouraged” but he will establish justice on earth. How? Relentless, gentle love.
Notice how Jesus handles the broken and hurting. “A bruised reed he will not break” conveys the gentle way in which Jesus handles the hearts of men. Remember, it is God’s kindness that draws us to repentance. Knowing that Jesus will not “snuff out” a smoldering wick shows how He interacts with hearts that once must have been burning bright but now have faded. He won’t ignore them; these are the very ones He came to save. The bruised, those whose fire is going out, these are the ones that Jesus is calling back to God for healing and restoration.
So… is God love or justice? Yes. Is Jesus gentle or did He come to restore justice? Both. Often the false choices we are forced to make in human culture can find their way into our understanding of who God is. Jesus came full of grace AND truth. It isn’t an either/or but a both/and dynamic. God is full of compassion and truth, grace and mercy, holiness and justice, righteousness and kindness. God is the perfect manifestation of all these things, the greatest of these is love.
Today I pray that as you turn your heart to the manager, that the shadow of the cross would not fade. Christmas without the crucifixion is meaningless. The birth of Jesus without His death and resurrection hold now power. As Paul said: if Jesus hasn’t risen from the dead, we are still dead in our sins. Today, let us rejoice knowing that Jesus came as God’s servant to right every wrong and to bring true justice and peace to mankind. In the life, death, and resurrection we come to know true peace and restoration of our relationship with God.
Father, today we confess that sometimes it can be difficult to understand who you are. God reminds us that if we could explain who you are fully, you wouldn’t be God, we would. Lord help us to trust in the truth you have revealed in Scripture about who you are. Help us remember that You are more wonderful than we could imagine and Your love for us motivated You to give Your only Son Jesus to come as a ransom for our lives. Thank you for Your servant and the relentless, gentle love He shows to us all, in Jesus name, amen.
Truly, the LORD Himself will give to you a sign; Behold! A virgin will be pregnant, bear and conceive a Son — and His name will be called: “With us, God.” — Isaiah 7:14
“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…” as the song goes, sung by the Five Man Electrical Band. In it they mostly espouse, in rather humorous and some unfortunate ways, the misleading nature of signs. We are accustomed to so many signs these days that their noise may seem, as they continue to sing, that it is “blocking out the scenery and breaking my mind.”
But to announce something as important as the Savior of the world, God knew we’d need a sign. Nothing misleading, or confusing…just something unmistakable. And so, He gave us a sign, Himself…something only He could accomplish. This sign would break the very laws of nature that He had created! A virgin, a woman who had never known a man intimately, would become pregnant — without the seed of a man — she would carry a child and conceive a Son. And this Son, would not be simply human…but fully human and fully God. For He would be called Immanu (with us) – el (God).
This God would not remain far off and untouchable, but as John would later remark, a God “whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.” (1 John 1:1 NLT) This God will be with us and for us and in us! (Isaiah 7:14; Romans 8:31; John 14:17) God is approaching! Therefore, Hope is rising! Hallelujah!
Take a moment today and praise the “with us God!” Are you with Him the way He is with you? You can put your faith in Him today and trust His power to completely save you. Here’s your sign.