3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. — 2 Cor. 1:3 NLT
God, in His great love for us, wants to relieve us of all of our grief and distress. It is not His desire that we should suffer. No parent wants to see his or her child suffer. We want to reach out and comfort our children even when they may have caused their discomfort by a bad decision that they made. Love says help them, but Godly compassion says that there are times when they and we must endure those times of distress and grief so that we learn not to repeat our mistakes. As parents, we want to deliver our kids from the storm. The lesson that we need to learn and that we need to teach our children is that God doesn’t always need to deliver us from the storm, He is able to comfort us in the storm. Rough seas may come and destructive winds may blow but nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. When God doesn’t immediately deliver us from the storm we must seek His comfort in the storm. Then we will be able to pass that comfort, peace and joy on to those around us.
15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them, for he had compassion on his people and his Temple. — 2 Chronicles 36:15
Because of His great love and compassion, God had warned the Israelites again and again. The people and the leaders would repent and be faithful for a while. Then they would go back to their wicked ways and worship the idols of the nations around them. God would bring up armies against them, but He had never allowed them to completely destroy Jerusalem. This time, they had gone too far. Just as the prophets had told Josiah, God would allow the city to be destroyed and the people taken captive. He brought the Egyptains against the city and the Judahites had to pay tribute to the king of Egypt. Then, God brought the Babylonians against Judah to completely lay waste to Jerusalem and the land of Judah. They took the people to Babylon where they would remain in captivity until Cyrus of Persia became king. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemened to repeat it.” is a statement attributed to George Santayana in 1863. Our nation can learn and remember what God did to His chosen people, the Israelites or we will be condemned to repeat their failures as well. God has repeatedly sent His modern day prophets and preachers to warn our country to repent, turn from our wicked ways and return unto the God of our Fathers. Let us join together in prayer that we and our leaders will learn from history so that God can continue to bless us and not allow our great country to be destroyed.
12 Because Rehoboam humbled himself, the Lord’s anger was turned away, and he did not destroy him completely. There were still some good things in the land of Judah.
— 2 Chronicles 12:12 NLT
God is so good and merciful. He gives us opportunity after opportunity to repent and return to worshipping Him and Him alone. He had blessed all of Israel with forty years of peace and wealth beyond measure. Yet, here they were, back to worshipping idols. God had split the kingdom into Israel, the northern kingdom and Judah, the southern kingdom because of the iniquities of the people. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon was the king of the southern kingdom and reigned in Judah from Jerusalem. For a while, he was faithful to God, but then, he returned to idol worship and God sent Shishak and the Egyptian army to destroy Judah. After Shishak had taken the fortified towns in Judah, he advanced on Jerusalem. The king and the leaders of the people in Jerusalem humbled themselves so God did not allow Shishak to destroy Jerusalem, but He did allow Shishak to take all the wealth from Jerusalem and made the inhabitants his servants. God saw that there were still some good things in the land of Judah, so He relented. We need to pray that God will see that there are still some good things in our country and not destroy us yet. We need to pray that we and our leaders will humble ourselves under the mighty hand of the one true and Almighty God. We have had our warnings, let us pray fervently that God continues to show His great mercy and compassion on this nation.
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. — Luke 2:36-38 NIV
What faithfulness and perserverance was shown by Anna. We don’t know how many years she was at the temple, but if she married at the normal age for that time, it could have been sixty years or more. She “worshipped night and day, fasting and praying”. Anna had given up everything to fast, pray and worship God Her faithfulness led to her being allowed to speak to the parents and others telling them that Jesus was the long awaited Redeemer of Israel. It also led to her being one of the first few people to see Jesus and to her becoming one of the characters in the story of the greatest birth ever recorded. What a reward for her faithfulness. These three verses are probably the least known of the verses in the story in Luke, yet, they announce the fulfillment of the prophecy that a Redeemer would come to Israel and His name would be Emmanuel. Anna’s words became part of the basis for one of the most well-known Advent carols ever written. This short passage is a great encouragement for us to remain faithful to God through the good times and the bad times. God is always faithful and He always rewards faithfulness.
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.” — Lamentations 3:22-24 NIV
Let us use these two passages of scripture to remind us to be faithful throughout the year, through the good times and the rough times. In the fullness of time, our Redeemer will come again to ransom us and our reward will be an eternity spent with Him.
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. — James 5:10, 11 NIV
God changed Abram’s name to Abraham which means “the Father of a multitude”. With that name change came a covenant promise that he would be exactly that. He and his wife Sarah waited many years for this to happen. God gave Joseph a dream that he would be a great leader and his family would bow down before him. He was thrown into a pit, sold into slavery and put into prison before that dream came to fruition. Job had it “all”, but God allowed satan to take it all from him and even allowed him to attack Job’s body as well. Job stood firm in refusing to blame or curse God and in the end, God gave him twice as much as he had before. Just as God had a plan for Abraham, Joseph, Job and the others, He has a plan for each of us. Today, we live in a world of “it’s all about me” and “I want all of this and I want it now”. We need to understand that none of us will wait as long as any of these people did to receive what God has promised us. We need to persevere in what we are now and where God has us now if we want to receive the blessings God wants to give each of us. We should do this with praise and joy because what God has in store for us is beyond our imagination.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:2-4 NIV
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.. — Colossians 3:12-14 NIV
The characteristics that Paul talks about here are totally contrary to the flesh. Yet, these are the goals that we should be striving toward in our daily walk with Jesus. All of us have certain areas in which God has gifted us and the change from natural to spiritual in these areas are easier for us than for others. The flesh is stubborn and wants to hold onto the old ways. Nevertheless, we must strive every day to improve in all of the areas. Being humble is hard for the flesh. When we do good deeds, we want to be recognized and praised for those good deeds. But, we must remember that we are doing these things for Jesus and laying up our rewards in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. — Matt. 6:2-4
Probably the toughest of all of these things is to learn to truly forgive. We say that we have forgiven those who have hurt us, but how do we treat that person after we have said those words. Does remembering the incident still cause you to act differently toward that person? Forgiveness is not a pardon for the person’s wrong, It is not saying that what they did is okay. It is saying that we all make mistakes and we all need forgiveness at times, so we should forgive others because of the forgiveness we have experienced in our lives, particularly, the forgiveness of our sins by Jesus. We need to forgive for our own benefit and not allow a root of bitterness to grow in our hearts that satan can use to destroy relationships with others and eventually destroy us.
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. — Ephesians 4:31
19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. 21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.—Gal. 3:19-22 (NIV)
God is waiting to show you the Way.
Why, then, was the law given at all? It was given because the people were living lifestyles that were displeasing to God and opened themselves up to total destruction. God, moved with compassion gave them the law that they might know exactly what He expected of them. The law was their teacher to show them that they were unable to live the life God desired. In giving the law, did God nullify His covenant with Abraham? Absolutely not, He could not and would not do that. But at the same time, the law had no life in it, therefore when the people transgressed the law, there was no Redeemer to reconcile them with God. Ever since Adam sinned, the world was under the control of sin, Therefore, until Jesus the perfect lamb without blemish was sacrificed on the Cross, the promises that God had made to Abraham could not be fulfilled. So, the promise that “all nations would be blessed through the Seed of Abraham” is fulfilled by the New Covenant of living under grace. Now, anyone who comes to the Throne of Grace and asks for forgiveness can receive it. So, people of every nation are truly blessed to become children of the Most High God.