Merciful King: The Promised Herald

Matthew 3

“‘I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.'” – Matthew 3: 11

John the Baptist is a popular name among Christians, but the One who came after Him was far greater – and that man is Jesus.

Back in the day, if a king intended to make a proclamation to his people, he did not have television, the internet, cell phones, nor all the fancy gadgets we have today in order to reach people.

No, a king employed a man called a “herald” who would go to public places and project his voice outward to the townspeople while reading from an officiated decree. That way all the people in the land would know the king’s plan.

In God’s world, He is King. So, He obviously intended to have a herald Himself. [John’s birth story can be found in Luke 1; the confirmed prophecy of John as Christ’s herald is Isaiah 40: 3.]

But what did John the herald proclaim?

Repentance: Like all the prophets before him, John desired that his people would turn their hearts back to God and give up habitually practiced sin.

The Kingdom of Heaven (at hand): True salvation through Jesus Christ – the moment by moment life of Jesus on Earth, as He walked among us as a man.

Where did he proclaim these two ideas?

The wilderness/desert: Unlike a traditional herald, John was not dressed up and primped in order to please the masses. He dressed strangely and had a strange diet. In fact, he may have seemed like a lunatic. Whereas a traditional herald would be proclaiming the news for his king in a public and easily accessible place, John obeyed the Lord and went to the Jordan River. God’s Word through this man was so powerful that he didn’t have to go to them; they came to him. Flocks and flocks of people came to this strange man in the middle of nowhere. And their lives were changed forever.

But then trouble came. The snakes. Having heard of the popularity of water baptism, the Pharisees and Sadducees decided to be baptized as well. But John denied them. Why would he do that?

Two reasons:

Pharisees: Once it seemed like “the cool thing to do,” the Pharisees considered adding the sanctity of water baptism to their religious ideas, without considering the serious commitment of their hearts back to God the Father. Religious tradition contradicts the will of God, that we truly desire Him above our own outward appearance of holiness. We are not meant to change ourselves in order to get closer to Him, but we strive to get closer to Him on a relational level, knowing that Jesus changes us by His power and His sacrifice.

Sadducees: First of all, the Sadducees did not even believe in the resurrection (Matthew 22: 23 – 33), let alone anything having to do with spiritual matters. They were well-educated in humanistic tradition as well. With this in mind, let’s look at the purpose of baptism:

“Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” – Romans 6: 3 – 4

Baptism mirrors the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Without belief in Jesus as a once-living man, his death on the cross, his burial in the tomb, and his resurrection and ascension, baptism means nothing. So, like the Pharisees, the Sadducees intended to put on a show, not knowing in their minds what they were meant to do. So much for being well-educated.

But then there was Jesus, at the water’s edge, insisting to be baptized by the man who was unworthy even to hold his sandals. Why would Jesus get baptized if He did not need repentance, if He Himself was the Kingdom Come? Love. Humility. Obedience.

And the Father adored His obedience.

Are you a voice calling out in the wilderness? Do the words of your mouth carry witness to others about whom Jesus is? Would you consider yourself a herald for the King?

“‘The main character in this drama – compared to him I’m a mere stagehand – will ignite the kingdom life within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.'” – The Message

Merciful King: The Prince’s Lineage

Matthew 1

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).” – Matthew 1: 22 – 23

Jesus is His name.

Jesus Christ – Immanuel – ultimately means, “God saves, the Anointed One – God with us.”

Chapter 1 of Matthew is a Jewish genealogy, intended to tie the Old Testament to the New Testament. If you look closely at the lineage of Jesus, you’ll notice something a little strange. Yes, in the lineage you’ll see King David and the father-of-faith Abraham, but you’ll also notice five women.

Women being mentioned in a Jewish genealogy is strange because traditionally women were viewed as less than important, but Matthew knew what he was doing by writing their names in the lineage. Let’s take a look at their stories:

Tamar (Genesis 38): She deceived her father-in-law into having sex with her, in order that she may have what she truly believed she deserved – an heir.

Rahab (Joshua 2): Although she was a prostitute and foreigner, she feared the LORD and kept a promise to the Israelites, that they might overthrow Jericho and have the land.

Ruth (her book): She lived in a time when all of Israel were pursuing pleasures instead of the LORD, and yet while she was a foreigner (and a young widow) in the land, she remained faithful to the LORD and her bitter mother-in-law.

Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11): She was simply described as “very beautiful.” King David, having “remained in Jerusalem” “when kings go off to war,” called on her for sex. (Can we just take a moment to address this, that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time far before he walked onto the roof top to watch a woman bathing?) After he found out she was pregnant, David tried to cover up his sin, and a snowball became an avalanche ending in the death of Uriah, who was Bathsheba’s husband.

Mary: In upcoming chapters, Mary will be described as pure, but when Joseph (her fiancé) first heard that Mary was pregnant, his immediate thought was not that she had been made pregnant by the Holy Spirit. No, more than likely he felt shame, shame because his fiancee had had sex with another man. So, he resolved to call off the engagement in private, leaving Mary with some dignity – or so he thought. See, Joseph was a righteous man, a man who lived by faith. And he was the man that God had chosen to raise His Son. So, God’s plan would prevail, and Joseph’s plan would be stopped by God’s messenger.

Over and over again, the genealogy of Jesus could have been snipped as a thread is snipped by a pair of scissors, but God would not allow it. All these things – Tamar’s deceit, Rahab’s betrayal of her own people, Ruth’s choice to stay with a bitter woman, Bathsheba’s answer to the king’s lustful call, and even Joseph’s lack of knowledge – could not stop the plan of God. In fact, in a lot of ways, God used these shining, shimmering human failures to glorify Himself.

Is there something in your life right now that seems unfair or doesn’t make sense, but may actually be used for ultimate good in the end?

Carry on, because more than likely, whatever it is, it’s leading to Jesus and His plan.

Come ti chiami?

Why “Rowan Cords”?

So, why Rowan Cords? That’s the first question, and I’ll get to the answer.

What does it mean? That will be answered as well.

Where is this blog headed?

 

All good questions! I respond with more questions:

Is there a Higher Power? Yes. (Gasp! You think, He responded in certainty!)

Is He relational? Yes. (Really?! How come I’ve never heard him?!)

Does He have a name? Yes. In fact, He has many names, but the Ultimate is Jesus. (Perhaps I will get to share more about this Jesus.)

Do we know what Jesus expects of us? We should, because He gives us access to His Word – at least He does in America. (I can’t speak of other countries. . .)

These questions (more specifically, the answers to these questions) are the foundation of this blog post – and prayerfully the foundation of my blog.

 

Okay, with this foundation now laid, let’s look at the other questions again:

The phrase Rowan Cords echoes two concepts that have really touched my heart while studying God’s Word the past two years. And I hope the upcoming posts simply encourage, edify, and entertain you.

[Disclaimer: I am not perfect and definitely do not know everything, and ideas presented here are meant to challenge us – even me, especially me. I have no degree in biblical studies. In fact, I only started reading the bible regularly in April 2015. I enjoy story, and I trust the Author when He shares His with me. So, I enjoy sharing it with others, especially through online webpages like this one.]

 

My life verse: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.”

(Proverbs 3: 3)

Rowan: 

This comes from two separate ideas.

First, “love and faithfulness” pertain to the Law, the Old Testament Law that we ourselves cannot obey without the power of God Himself. All we can do is continually seek out the Word of the Lord, keep ourselves immersed in it, and meditate on it day and night. We can tie it around our wrists, make posts online about it, keep it in photographs around our homes and workplaces. We need reminders because we are finite and forgetful.

But, that’s just it. Without the power of God, it cannot necessarily be written on our hearts. Religion is empty. But that’s when Jesus comes in. We realize we are weak to obey the Law, and He says, “All you need to do is believe in me.” Believe He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, and He begins to write Love on the tablet of our hearts.

[Thought: The same power that inscribes love and faithfulness on our hearts also erases the junk we’ve inscribed there. (Honestly I cannot remember if that’s a quote or an original thought. . . I’ll give credit to Chris Tiegreen for the heck of it.)]

Second, a Rowan tree, in most myths and legends, is protective, acts as a spiritual guide to keep a traveller on the correct path, and always guides the sojourner home. To me, this echoes the power of God, so I clung to the idea. Without Him, we are lost.

Cords: 

The word for “bind” in Hebrew here literally means, “to tie together,” which further (roughly) translates to “two inseparable ideas when bound together – once and for all.”

Consider Ecclesiastes 4: 12: “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” (i.e. God, Jesus, Holy Spirit)

This power is only possible through Christ, by Christ, for the purpose of Christ – for His exaltation.

And the only time the Trinity broke up was when Jesus was on the cross, dying for everyone, because He chose to do so for the sake of the world.

Consider also Isaiah 49: 16. “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

This is God speaking, and what would those engravings be but the marks of the nails through His palms as He hung to the cross?!

He broke the cord so that He might have more strands.

God alone has the power to bind, thus the name He allows us to share as His children – Christians.

At the cross, He invited us into fellowship with the Father. His intention is Love, that we would be inseparable from His Word and character, bound to it as with a cord, bound to Him as with a cord. We are stronger together.

 

Thanks for reading! I encourage you to consider His power and mercy.

If you wish to delve in further, leave comments, questions, and the like. Hope you enjoyed.

[Final note: I intend to make regular posts every Friday following this post.]

20

a sestina

How does one take a year and make a blanket

Statement about every nitty-gritty bit of character

Development, from heart break to fear to excitement then unrelenting kindness?

How does one glance back at companions,

Both those he has yet to meet and the ones he once

Knew would rush into the open auburn?

 

When looking out at the vast auburn

Sky, it’s as if the Lord had taken a blanket –

A single thread woven into every shade of red all at once.

He, in His vast knowledge and wisdom, put His very character

Into the layout; I know my companions

Can see it, well Him, too – such kindness.

 

Grace – why mistake it for mere kindness?

Scarlet – only I could mistake it for auburn.

Family – as if they were lowly traveling companions.

Security – comfort mistaken as a cloth-like blanket.

Jesus whispers, “Yes, if you would hear, you would know I am the lead character.

Listen, son, just this once.”

 

Why ponder this once?

Why stop at His kindness?

Is there not also joy? Peace? Goodness? So much more to His character?!

Was He not beaten to what – to disfigurement at the shade of dry auburn?!

Was there not, in mockery, placed around Him a purple, ratty blanket?!

And looking down with his compassionate eyes, He saw enemies, no companions. . .

 

To lay one’s life down for his companions. . .

He did it just once.

But it was a blanket

Promise to all. Kindness. . .

To show us the Father’s love. Auburn

Leaves fall to the ground, but in spring they change character.

 

In spring, they come to life again. New character –

Same life, same love, inviting companions

To fellowship in memory of the dying auburn.

The leaves only fall once,

But so they rise to sit at the right hand of Kindness.

Trust in this, more than you might trust in any security blanket.

 

How does one take a truth and make a blanket

Statement about – well, more than just kindness?

And how could one speak it just once?