Advent Day 7: Remember My Name

“I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites:  ‘I AM’ has sent me to you.’. . . I will be with you.  And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you:  When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”  (Exodus 3:12, 14)

“Go tell it on the mountain.  Over the hills and everywhere.
Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.”

The mountain became a meeting place between God and humanity.  It was at the base of Mount Sinai that Moses saw the burning bush and received the call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to the promised land.  God identified himself as  Yahweh (YHWH)—“I AM”.  It signifies that he is eternal, self-sufficient, and self-sustaining.  The name was so holy that His people would not speak it.  When they encountered it in the written form, they pronounced it as LORD—Almighty God, (Adonai).  The Law and Prophets (Old Testament) use this 6,828 times. 

It was on this mountain that Moses received the Ten Commandments, and Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John just before his crucifixion.  In a moment of revelation, the disciples stepped into the spiritual realm and saw Jesus, not merely as their earthly rabbi, but as the great “I AM”.   As he conversed with Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophet), God confirmed him as the promised Messiah.  The voice in the burning bush had become man.  “We beheld his glory.  The glory as of the only begotten of the Father.  Full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)  It is significant that John wrote this prologue—after all, he was an eyewitness to the revelation on the mountain.  The Prophet Nahum proclaimed: “Look! On the mountains the feet of one who brings good tidings, who proclaims peace!” (Nahum 1:15)

Without the link between YWHW and Jesus, Christmas is just a children’s story.  It has no meaning or effect.  But taken as God in flesh among us, it becomes the greatest event in human history.  Just think!  God lived here!

“LORD, it is beyond comprehension that you would love the world so much that you took on flesh and visited us.  Thank you for this amazing gift.”  Amen.

Mindi Oaten’s paintings “Our Living Hope” and “Master of Truth” are from God’s Garden of Grace collection.

Advent Day Six: Crossing the Red Sea

“I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.  The LORD is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”  (Exodus 15:1-2).

There are events that change the course of history.  Time has been divided into B.C. and A.D. because of the birth of Jesus.  Regardless of nation, faith or politics, we all live in 2020. 

For the Jews, the exodus out of Egypt is just as significant.  It was the birth of the nation.  The crossing of the Red Sea is mentioned 87 times in scripture.  It is used as a rallying cry for God’s people when they are facing insurmountable odds. 

To be released from captivity only to be trapped against the Red Sea must have been terrifying.  They couldn’t swim across, there were too many of them to take a boat, and they couldn’t turn back.  The Egyptians were in hot pursuit. 

Moses was instructed to stretch out his hand over the sea and the waters parted, giving a temporary dry path for over a million people to cross.  They were instructed to take twelve rocks from the bottom of the sea to the other side. 

Jesus showed his divinity when he spoke a word and calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Then Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the sea. “Silence!He commanded. “Be still!” And the wind died down, and it was perfectly calm. “Why are you so afraid?” He asked the disciples. “Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:39-40) .

When the Israelites were safely through the waters, they built an altar from the 12 stones they had gathered as a reminder of God’s act of deliverance.  For Christians, the cross is our symbol of remembrance.  The angels proclaimed: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11). 

“Holy God, we cannot rescue ourselves from death.  You alone have the power to take us through those waters.  Keeping the cross before us, we rely on your promise to lead us to the other side.”  Amen

Mindi Oaten’s painting “The Commander” is from God’s Garden of Grace collection.

Advent Day Five: The Egypt Effect

Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  So then, don’t be afraid, I will provide for you and your children.” (Genesis 50:19-21)

God can be at work in our greatest tragedies.  These defining moments get our attention and cause us to realign our priorities.  People of faith look for the deeper meaning.  Sometimes the explanation is never found this side of heaven, but often, when we look back, God’s involvement is evident.

Joseph spent decades in Egypt, having been sold by his brothers into slavery. To an outsider, it may have seemed like he had been abandoned,  yet his captivity proved to be the means by which  the children of Israel were saved from starvation and annihilation.  God blessed Joseph and raised him to prominence in Pharaoh’s court, placing him charge of filling the granaries with wheat in the time of abundance.  Because Joseph was in the right place at the right time,  provisions were available for his family during the famine.

Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to hide Jesus from Herod after the visitation of the wisemen.  Following the pattern of his ancestors, he was called out of Egypt, back to Israel at just the right time.  There he grew up safely in Nazareth as God prepared him for his epic mission. 

If you are in a situation that seems far from perfect, be certain that God can use circumstances to further his plan.  “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. “ (Romans 8:28).  Wisdom teaches us not to second guess the providence of God—in his time it will all make sense.

“Lord, I don’t always see you the circumstances of my life.  Rather than panicing and trying to figure it out, help me to trust in your guidance.  Give me patience to persevere, knowing that you are working out your own good purpose.”  Amen

Mindi Oaten’s painting “Our Instruction and Wisdom”is from God’s Garden of Grace collection.

Advent Day Four: The Prodigal

But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him.  And they wept. . . Jacob said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me.  For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.” (Genesis 33:4, 10)

The story of the prodigal son is a picture of God’s unconditional love.  It offers comfort not only to the repentant, but also to those waiting for their loved ones to return.  The original prodigal was Jacob.

As a young man, he had tricked his brother Esau into giving away both his birthright and the blessing of the first born.  The rift caused by this deception forced Jacob to flee the country.  Years later, when life in his father-in-law’s home became intolerable, Jacob was faced with a decision:  Do I stay here or return home to Canaan? He wrestled with God before plotting his return.  He hoped to win his brother’s favor with gifts.  But Esau met his brother with open arms, choosing reconciliation over retribution.  The prodigal had returned.

From the moment Adam and Eve walked away from God, he began planning the reunion.  But rather than waiting for the sinner to return, God took the initiative, offering himself as the gift:

 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is thirsty come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17)

Alienation from God has never been his choice; it is ours.  Advent is a reminder that “God so loved the world” that he came. . .   pursuing us as a grieving father searching for his child.  The light of the Christmas star is God’s invitation to come back to him.  The throne room of heaven has become a barn.  Nobles are exchanged for shepherds.  Sinners are transformed into saints.

“Lord, we have an ache that reminds us when we are far from home.  Open our eyes and ears to your grace so freely extended in the manger.  Let this be a time of reconciliation and forgiveness.”  Amen

Mindi Oaten’s painting “Brings down the Proud” is from God’s Garden of Grace collection. Two flowers from one bulb represent Jacob and Esau.

Advent Day Three: The Test

The angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”  And he said, “Here I am.”  He Said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis 22:11-12)

Sometimes life goes sideways: family problems, financial challenges, career setbacks, natural disasters, or health scares can derail five-year plans in an instant.  This is particularly upsetting when you are trusting the LORD to lead.  We’re tempted to say, “God what did I do wrong?”, even though we know that he takes no pleasure in our pain. 

Abraham must have felt this way when the angel of the Lord told him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering.  Child sacrifice was a common practice in pagan worship; but the living God was supposed to be different.  When Isaac asked, “Where’s the sacrifice?” his father responded, “The Lord will provide.”  This was not only a test of Abraham’s faith, but also of God’s love. 

Taking risks when there is no safety net may seem foolish, but in our vulnerability, we are open to God’s intervention.  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You alone have the words of eternal life.” Abraham’s willingness to lay it all on the altar made him a friend of God, who was prepared to give his only son as a sacrifice for the whole world.  When we see the babe in the manager, it’s easy to forget that it was the moment of no return.  Just as Abraham began the ascent of Mount Moriah with Isaac, Jesus begins the ascent to Mount Calvary with the annunciation of his birth to Mary.  “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)

 “When life brings us to the edge, Lord, you are there. None of the sacrifices we make can compare with the offering you made of your only son on our behalf.  The God of the universe became one with us in the incarnation.  Thank you for being our substitute.”  Amen

Mindi Oaten’s painting “The Anointed Deliverer”is from God’s Garden of Grace collection.  Hyssop was used to apply the blood to the doorpost at Passover.  Oil represents the Holy Spirit.