HOW GOD STAYS IN TOUCH WITH MAN: VIII

Time is the frame in which we live, move, and have our being. Time is granted to us to structure our lives in such a way that we become competent to make our way through the world and into the Arms of God. Christmas is a time when we ought to long to return home and be reunited with our loved ones. At least that was my wish when I was some six thousand miles from my family. It reminded me of the Gospel that informs us that God, the Father, had a similar longing, only his children were not willing to receive His First-born Son. There was no room in the inn and His own family did not want His Son (Luke 2:6-7; John 1:11). He (Jesus) was the First-born! For Jesus existed before man was designed, by God, to be made in “His Image and in “His Likeness.” Yet, in this world, the Son of God, our Brother, was not allowed to have a simple roof over His head. And Jesus had nothing to offer of any value on earth to those who desired to follow Him. Jesus gave this answer to a prospect:

“Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).

JESUS USED THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS TO PREDICT HIS REJECTION AND HIS DEATH BY HIS OWN PEOPLE

The Parable has become a historical fact and a warning to Christians who think they can celebrate Christmas without the “Presence” and without the “Spirit of God.” Christmas is a time of sharing lives, and not just to give and to receive gifts. Do not celebrate empty handed! God gave His Son! But, what does God expect of his people?

What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into ur hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son God has made you also an heir (Galatians 4:1-7).

Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more the first time, and the tenants treated the the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son, he said.

But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?

“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet (Matthew 21:33-46).

A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM ISAIAH, HOW GOD FELT!

The prophets were God’s emissaries in the world. And Isaiah was one prophet who understood how much hurt God must have felt when his own people shamed Him (Romans 2:24). Jesus wept over Jerusalem! And Jesus poured out His Heart, as Isaiah did before Him, some seven hundred years earlier. It is simply beyond our human grasp how patient and how tolerant God remains toward rebellious men and women:

As he (Jesus) approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and he you in on every side. The will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:41-44).

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. Fot I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:37-39).

Hear, O heaven! Listen, O earth!

For the Lord has spoken:

“I reared children and brought them up,

but they have rebelled against me.

The ox knows his master,

the donkey his owner’s mager,

but Israel does not know,

my people do not understand.”

Ah, sinful nation,

a people loaded with guilt,

a brood of evildoers,

children give to corruption.

They have forsaken the LORD;

they have spurned the Holy One of Israel

and turned their backs on him.

Why should you be beaten anymore?

Why do you persist in rebellion?

Your whole head is injured,

your whole heart afflicted.

From the sole of your foot to the top of your head

there is no soundness—

only wounds and welts

and open sores,

not cleansed or bandaged

or soothed with oil.

Your country is desolate,

your cities burned with fire;

your fields are being stripped by foreigners

right before you,

laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.

The Daughter of Zion is left

like a shelter in a vineyard,

like a hut in a field of melons,

like a city under siege.

Unless the LORD Almighty

had left us some survivors,

we would have become like Sodom,

we would have been like Gomorrah.

Hear the word of the LORD,

you rulers of Sodom;

listen to the law of our God,

you people of Gomorrah!

“The multitude of your sacrifices—

what are the to me?” says the LORD.

“I have more than enough of burnt offerings

of rams and the fat of fatted animals;

I have no pleasure

in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

When you come to meet with me,

who has asked this of you,

this trampling of my courts?

Stop bringing meaningless offerings!

Your incense is detestable to me.

New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—

I cannot bear your evil assemblies.

Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts

My soul hates.

They have become a burden to me;

I am weary of bearing them.

When you spread out your hands in prayer,

I will hide my eyes from you;

even if you offer many prayers,

I will not listen.

Your hands are full of blood;

wash and make yourselves clean.

take your evil deeds

out of my sight!

Stop doing wrong,

learn to do right!

Seek justice,

encourage the oppressed.

Defend the cause of the fatherless,

plead the case of the widow.

“Come now, let us reason together,”

says the LORD.

“Though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be as white as snow;

though they are red as crimson,

they shall be like wool.

If you are willing and obedient,

you will eat the best from the land;

but if you resist and rebel,

You will be devoured by the sword.”

For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

See how the faithful city has become a harlot!

She once was full of justice;

righteousness used to dwell in her—

but now murderers!

Your silver has become dross,

your choice wine is diluted with water.

Your rulers are rebels,

companions of thieves;

they all love bribes

and chase after gifts.

They do not defend the cause of the fatherless,

the widow’s case does not come before them.

Therefore the Lord, the LORD Almighty,

the Mighty One of Israel declares:

“Ah I will get relief from my foes

and avenge myself on my enemies.

I will turn my hand against you;

I will thoroughly purge away your dross

and remove your impurities.

I will restore your judges as in the days of old,

your counselors as at the beginning.

Afterward you will be called

The City of Righteousness,

The Faithful CIty.”

Zion will be redeemed with justice,

her penitent ones with righteousness.

But rebels and sinners will both be broken together,

and those who forsake the LORD will perish.

You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks

in which you have delighted;

you will be disgraced because of the gardens

that you have chosen.

You will be like an oak with fading leaves,

like a garden without water.

The mighty man will become tinder

and his work a spark;

both will burn together,

with no one to quench the fire” (Isaiah 1:2-31).

ON CHRISTMAS GOD TURNED TO OTHER PEOPLE WHO WOULD LOVE AND WHO WOULD OBEY HIM

“I (God) revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek.

To a nation that did not call on my name,

I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’

All day long I have held out my hands

to an obstinate people,

who walk in ways not good,

pursuing their own imaginations—

a people who continually provoke me

To my very face

Offering sacrifices in gardens

And burning incense on altars of bricks;

Who sit among the graves

And spend their nights weeping secret vigil;

Who eat the flesh of pigs,

and whose pots hold broth of unclean meat;

who say, ‘Keep away; don’t come near me,

for I a too sacred for you!’

Such people are smoke in my nostrils,

a fire that keeps burning all day.

See, it stands written before me:

I will not keep silent but will pay back in full;

I will pay it back into their laps—

both your sins and the sins of your fathers,”

says the LORD.

“Because they burned sacrifices on the mountains

and defiled me on the hills,

I will measure into their lap

the full payment for their former deeds.”

This is what the LORD says:

“As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes

and men say, ‘Don’t destroy it,

there is yet some good in it,’

so will I do on behalf of my servant;

I will not destroy them all.

I will bring forth descendants from Jacob,

and from Judah those who will possess my mountains;

my chosen people will inherit them,

and there will my servants live.

Sharon will become a pasture for flocks,

and the Valley of Achor a resting place for herds,

for my people who seek me.

But as for you who forsake the LORD

and forget my holy mountain,

who spread a table for Fortune

and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny

I will destine you for the sword,

and you will all bend down for the slaughter;

for I called but you did not answer,

I spoke but you did not listen.

You did evil in my sight

and chose what displeases me” (Isaiah 65:1-12).