Tuesday, December 12, 2023

A Mighty Lineage of Salvation

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
    or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
    with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
    with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
    and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
Isaiah 11:1-5

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  Matthew 1:21

“For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
– Luke 2:11

It was no coincidence that the long-awaited Messiah would be given the name Jesus. Jesus, in Greek, comes of the Hebrew name Joshua which means “God Saves” or “The Lord is our Salvation.”

Ironically, the word “Messiah” does not appear in the Old Testament, even though every chapter from Genesis to Malachi is preparing us for His arrival. With every leader, king, humble servant, and prophet, God was paving the way for the ultimate Anointed One—a Deliverer who was mighty to save.

Three forefathers of the faith give us glimpses into what this saving would look like. Ocieanna Fleiss offers a reflection for each of these Redemption characters in her book, Awaiting the Manger:

1.    Noah:
When God told Noah to build an ark, it didn’t make any sense. But the Mighty, Omniscient God knew what He was doing. With each new descendant from Adam and Eve, God needed a way to draw out the faithful (though never faultless), to establish a lineage fit for a Savior. Looking back through Jesus’ genealogy, some of the people chosen to carry along the line seem as absurd as building a giant boat in the middle of dry land.

And yet, When God rescued Noah from the flood, he also rescued Christmas. Father Noah had to survive in a wooden boat so his greater Son Jesus could be placed in a wooden manger and die on a wooden cross to drown in the tide of God’s judgment—so we wouldn’t have to. So we too could be hidden, not in an ark, but safe in the arms of the Savior.”  (Awaiting the Manger, Chapter 3)

2.    Abraham:
When God made his covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15, He enacted a scene familiar to anyone who had conquered or been conquered by a neighboring kingdom. It was a covenant practice, a way to make sure a promise was kept. Little did Abraham know, God had the biggest Promise of all, hiding in the wings.

“As Abraham performed this bloody, terrifying task, he knew what God was demanding, what halved animals represented to the nations around him. When a great king conquered a lesser king, they would split animals in a ceremony to ratify an agreement. Then the lesser king—humiliated into obedience after being tortured and mocked by the conquering nation—would walk between the torn animals. With this action, the lesser king said, ‘If I ever break my promises to you, you will thrash me to pieces like these animals.’”

“. . . with every violent slash, his [Abraham’s] understanding grew. God was the greater King. Abraham was a mere man. He must try to be faithful, to obey all God asked of him. But he had failed before. If he again fell to temptation, the torn animals shouted his fate. But then God altered the narrative. Rather than making him walk between the animals, God put Abraham into a deep sleep, and then did something no great king would ever dream of doing. “When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces” (Genesis 15:17). The fire pot and the flaming torch represented God himself. God—not the lesser king, not just the greater king, but the greatest King—walked the bloody path through the ripped pieces.”
(Awaiting the Manger, Chapter 4)

Abraham must have been so bewildered. What kind of God was this who acted with such sacrifice?

3.     The final forefather I am exploring today is Moses:

Baby Moses’s story parallels that of Toddler Jesus in so many ways. And that was only the beginning. God used adult Moses to bring about a tremendously large-scale deliverance for the people of Israel, and the liberation from Egypt became an annual feast of remembrance of God’s redemption.

“Like Moses, Jesus was born into life-threatening conditions, under the threat of an evil king’s murderous command to destroy infants. But despite the dangers, in a tiny stable on a chilly dawn, young Mary held an even greater deliverer than Moses in her arms. Their small family escaped to Egypt this time (instead of from Egypt). Both Moses’s and Jesus’s dangerous journeys were governed by God’s hand of providence. No danger could thwart God’s purpose. And no matter the heartache or stress or obstacles that come our way, nothing can hinder his loving purpose for us. (Awaiting the Manger, Chapter 10).

In Galatians 4:4-5, Paul writes,

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Before Jesus, mention of a savior would bring men such as Noah, Abraham, or Moses to mind. And they weren’t wrong. God used His people throughout time and space to point the perfect way to the One who would be called Jesus, “The Lord Saves.”

Born in lowly, dangerous circumstances. Born as a humble servant, surrendering His heavenly home. Born to set His people free, covered by grace and love.

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