"They go from strength to strength."
They go from strength to strength. There are various renderings of these words, but all of them contain the idea of progress.
Our own good translation of the authorized version is enough for us this morning. "They go from strength to strength." That is, they grow stronger and stronger. Usually, if we are walking, we go from strength to weakness; we start fresh and in good order for our journey, but by-and-by the road is rough, and the sun is hot, we sit down by the wayside, and then again painfully pursue our weary way. But the Christian pilgrim having obtained fresh supplies of grace, is as vigorous after years of toilsome travel and struggle as when he first set out. He may not be quite so elate and buoyant, nor perhaps quite so hot and hasty in his zeal as he once was, but he is much stronger in all that constitutes real power, and travels, if more slowly, far more surely. Some gray-haired veterans have been as firm in their grasp of truth, and as zealous in diffusing it, as they were in their younger days; but, alas, it must be confessed it is often otherwise, for the love of many waxes cold and iniquity abounds, but this is their own sin and not the fault of the promise which still holds good: "The youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint." Fretful spirits sit down and trouble themselves about the future. "Alas!" say they, "we go from affliction to affliction." Very true, O thou of little faith, but then thou goest from strength to strength also. Thou shalt never find a bundle of affliction which has not bound up in the midst of it sufficient grace. God will give the strength of ripe manhood with the burden allotted to full-grown shoulders.
"I am crucified with Christ."
The Lord Jesus Christ acted in what he did as a great public representative person, and his dying upon the cross was the virtual dying of all his people. Then all his saints rendered unto justice what was due, and made an expiation to divine vengeance for all their sins. The apostle of the Gentiles delighted to think that as one of Christ's chosen people, he died upon the cross in Christ. He did more than believe this doctrinally, he accepted it confidently, resting his hope upon it. He believed that by virtue of Christ's death, he had satisfied divine justice, and found reconciliation with God. Beloved, what a blessed thing it is when the soul can, as it were, stretch itself upon the cross of Christ, and feel, "I am dead; the law has slain me, and I am therefore free from its power, because in my Surety I have borne the curse, and in the person of my Substitute the whole that the law could do, by way of condemnation, has been executed upon me, for I am crucified with Christ."
But Paul meant even more than this. He not only believed in Christ's death, and trusted in it, but he actually felt its power in himself in causing the crucifixion of his old corrupt nature. When he saw the pleasures of sin, he said, "I cannot enjoy these: I am dead to them." Such is the experience of every true Christian. Having received Christ, he is to this world as one who is utterly dead. Yet, while conscious of death to the world, he can, at the same time, exclaim with the apostle, "Nevertheless I live." He is fully alive unto God. The Christian's life is a matchless riddle. No worldling can comprehend it; even the believer himself cannot understand it. Dead, yet alive! crucified with Christ, and yet at the same time risen with Christ in newness of life! Union with the suffering, bleeding Saviour, and death to the world and sin, are soul-cheering things. O for more enjoyment of them!
Today's reading: Joel 1-3, Revelation 5 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: Joel 1-3
1 The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel.
An Invasion of Locusts
2 Hear this, you elders;
listen, all who live in the land.
Has anything like this ever happened in your days
or in the days of your ancestors?
3 Tell it to your children,
and let your children tell it to their children,
and their children to the next generation.
4 What the locust swarm has left
the great locusts have eaten;
what the great locusts have left
the young locusts have eaten;
what the young locusts have left
other locusts have eaten.
5 Wake up, you drunkards, and weep!
Wail, all you drinkers of wine;
wail because of the new wine,
for it has been snatched from your lips.
6 A nation has invaded my land,
a mighty army without number;
it has the teeth of a lion,
the fangs of a lioness.
7 It has laid waste my vines
and ruined my fig trees.
It has stripped off their bark
and thrown it away,
leaving their branches white....
Today's New Testament reading: Revelation 5
The Scroll and the Lamb
1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals...."
Elias, Elijah [Ĕlī'as,Ĕlī'jah]—god is jehovah or god himself.
The Man Who Had No Fear of Man
No career in the Old Testament is more vividly portrayed, or has as much fascination as that of the unique character of Elijah. The New Testament attests to his greatness and reveals what an indelible impression he made upon the mind of his nation. All we know of him before his dramatic appearance can be summed up in the words: “Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead” ( 1 Kings 17:1). Scripture is silent about his past history. Suddenly and with abrupt impetuosity the figure of the prophet bursts upon the scene to rebuke the godless and to reawaken and restore the nation of which he was a part. This man of iron is presented in many ways:
As a fearless, bold and dauntless reformer (1 Kings 18:17-46).
As a rebuker of kings ( 1 Kings 21:20; 2 Kings 1:16).
As a mighty intercessor, praying with faith and intensity (1 Kings 17:20, 22; 18:36-38; Jas. 5:17).
As a man prone to discouragement (1 Kings 19:4).
As one capable of fallible judgment ( 1 Kings 19:4, 18).
As a prophet divinely honored (2 Kings 2:11; Matt. 17:3).
As a performer of miracles ( 1 Kings 19:8).
As a God-inspired prophet ready to obey and trust God (1 Kings 17:1; 21:9-24; 2 Kings 1:2-17).
As a saint whose end was glorious (2 Kings 2:1).
Both mystery and majesty are associated with Elijah, the mightiest of the prophets. His history in 1 Kings can be appropriately studied under five prepositions:
Before Ahab (1 Kings 17:1). When God commands us to speak, no thought of peril need make us dumb.
By Cherith (1 Kings 17:2-7 ). Faith moves on, trusting that when the first step is taken the next will be revealed.
On Carmel (1 Kings 18). Here we see the power of a fully surrendered man.
In the wilderness (1 Kings 19 ). The overwrought prophet suffered a lapse of confidence, but was quickly restored.
Elijah, the rugged prophet, suggests John the Baptist, who came in the same spirit and power of the prophet.
Note these points of correspondence:
Their familiarity with the deserts and solitude.
Their austere manner and dress.
Their strong reproof of prevailing evils.
Their intrepid fidelity in calling all classes to repentance.
Their exposure of the wrath of a wicked king.
Their continued influence after death through disciples.
Their fruitful labors. “Many of the children of Israel did they turn to the Lord their God.”
2. A son of Harim who married a foreign wife during the exile (Ezra 10:21).
3. A Benjamite and son of Jeroham, resident at Jerusalem (1 Chron. 8:27 RV).
4. An Israelite induced to put away his foreign wife. (Ezra 10:26).
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. -Isaiah 9:6
"What is the baby's name?" The people in Bethlehem who had heard of a baby born in a stable must have stopped by to talk to Mary or Joseph. Mary and Joseph voiced the name they themselves had not chosen: Jesus. But hundreds of years earlier, other names had already been announced for the Anointed One. Among them, Isaiah spoke of one who would be called Wonderful Counselor.
What was a "counselor" in biblical times? It was one of the roles of a king or other highly placed official, the task of being wise and judicious in the most difficult questions, the most complicated negotiations, and the most intractable problems. The counsel of the king was supreme. But it was not infallible. We know there is good counsel and there is poor counsel.
The one born of a virgin would be called Wonderful Counselor. Now that is something different. The Hebrew word for "wonderful" means something out of the ordinary, clearly different, beyond human explanation. It is the knowledge described in Psalm 139:1-6: O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in-behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
When we contemplate the nativity of Jesus, we cannot help but be full of wonder. This is how God came to us, and it is wonderful because Jesus gives us an unclouded vision of what our lives are supposed to be-good counsel. He instructed us with words of wisdom. He exemplified, for us, what it looks like to lead a life devoted to the Father. Yet, how often do we really heed this treasured council? How might we live more consciously in light of the example he set forth?
Prayer for Today:
Lord I need your counsel in every area of my life. As I think about my family, friends, work, and decisions-I know I need to be smart beyond what is humanly possible to be smart. So please help me listen to you this Christmas as the only one who is the Wonderful Counselor.