Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

Have you ever watched a movie that was much worse than what the trailer for it led you to expect?  Were scenes taken out of context, giving you the wrong impression?  Was every good scene from the movie already in the trailer, leaving you disappointed?

Every now and then, God gives us a preview of heaven, reminders of His steadfast love for us in our present time that strengthen our hope and empower us to live for Him.  When we seek God, He gives a glimpse of the blessings in store for us.  He may answer with an encouraging word, a compassionate friend, a moment of mental clarity, or some surprise blessing.  David describes something like this in Psalm 36:7-9 –

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
            The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
            and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
            in your light do we see light.

David wrote these verses in the present tense, meaning we can take refuge with God right now, and experience the abundance of His love.  Commenting on the middle verse, James Montgomery Boice says the Hebrew word translated as delights “is the plural of the word Eden and undoubtedly looks backward to the joys of our first parents before the fall.”[1]  By referencing the past paradise of Eden, David also hints of future paradise where we will have eternal life.

Paradise was real and will be real again, and we know the movie will be far better than the trailer could possibly show us.  God does not give wrong impressions and He does not disappoint.

Take refuge in Him.

[1] From “March 28.” James Montgomery Boice and Marion Clark. Come to the Waters: Daily Bible Devotions for Spiritual Refreshment.  (2017).

Pictures of Holiness and Grace

A picture can be, as they say, worth a thousand words.  To make an impression, sometimes God uses pictures or images, and one example is how He lets us know just how holy He is.

When calling Isaiah to be a prophet, God gave him an image in Isaiah 6:1 “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.”  In this vision of a throne room, why bother to mention that “the train of his robe filled the temple”?  Because in this image of God’s presence, there is no room for anything that isn’t holy.  If anyone tries to walk into the temple, they will tread on the Lord’s robe with their dirty feet, and any lord would be immensely offended at that.  James Boice commented on the verse, that: “This suggests that there is room for no one else at the highest pinnacle of the universe.  It is not just that Jehovah reigns, therefore, but also that no one else reigns beside Him or in opposition to Him”[1]

Photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash

A similar picture of holiness comes from Revelation 15:8, which says: “and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.”  Until God’s judgment was complete – both on the unrepentant and on the cross for His people – there would continue to be no room in the sanctuary for anyone but the Lord.

A third picture, which was not just a vision, but built in actual, physical form, is the “Holy of Holies.”  During most of the Old Testament period, priests implemented an elaborate sacrificial system to illustrate God’s requirements for meeting with sinners: an innocent creature had to die.  These animals symbolized the later sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  But the “Holy of Holies” was the ultimate statement of how serious approaching God is.

This innermost room of the temple was only entered once per year (on the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur), and only by the high priest, who only can enter after hours of preparation.  Once there, the high priest would sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed bull on and in front of God’s “mercy seat”, the cover of the ark of the covenant and a sign of His presence.  Later Jewish tradition (not found in the Bible) indicates that others would stand outside the room holding a rope that was tied to the high priest, who also had bells tied around his waist.  If those outside heard the bells jingling, followed by silence, they would assume the high priest did not atone properly for the sins of the people, died in God’s presence, and needed to be dragged out by the rope.  God’s holy presence was to be taken seriously.

So Isaiah, presented with God’s holiness, cried out “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”  Isaiah’s “Woe” comes down to current times in the expression “Oy!”  Isaiah knew instinctually that being in God’s temple was a bad idea.  However, God provides redemption for His people, which He pictured for Isaiah like this: “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”[2]

Isaiah was not saved by a burning coal, but by what it represented: the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  In God’s steadfast love for His people, He offered Jesus once for all, and the only sacrifice necessary and sufficient for us to know God.  Therefore, there is no longer a barrier to His holy presence for God’s people, so the writer of Hebrews says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”[3]

Yes, God is holy and must be honored as holy, but when we feel insufficient or feel like yelling “oy!” when things go wrong, we can come “with confidence” to Jesus in His temple and ask Him to reassure us of His provision for our sin.  That we may know, like Isaiah, that “your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”


[1] From “May 9.” James Montgomery Boice and Marion Clark. Come to the Waters: Daily Bible Devotions for Spiritual Refreshment.  (2017).
[2] Isaiah 6:6-7
[3] Hebrews 4:16

Our Mighty God: What We Need for Christmas…Part 3

According to James Boice (see first post in the series), if you asked people to honestly describe their needs, they might describe one as: “We…have wills, and because we have wills, we want to achieve something. We want our lives to make a difference. To do that we need power.”[1]  This is a second need of us all, according to James Boice.  In Isaiah 9:6, Jesus, the Christ of Christmas, is described as our Mighty God, who Boice says “will empower us for life’s tasks” – those tasks He points us to in His wisdom.

The word Mighty probably calls to mind miraculous events, military victory, or superhero-like powers.  But ultimately, His greatest objectives for us – to love Him and to love our neighbor – are what He uses His might to accomplish.  When our Wonderful Counselor (see last post in series) gives wisdom to make a choice in life, He actually wants us to act on that choice because He knows how it will turn out – for our ultimate good – but what if we don’t agree with the choice, or don’t have the willpower to make it?

Photo by Hert Niks on Unsplash

God, unlike Lucy in the Peanuts comics, will not tell us to kick the football, then pull it away at the last second, leaving us on our back.  To those who trust Him, He will provide the ability to make a loving difference in the world.  As Mighty God, He puts His own resources and power behind His recommended wisdom to produce the desired effect of loving, godly living.

Put another way: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” as written in 2 Peter 1:3.  He does not empower us to do just anything, or to do whatever we decide; He will empower us to “life and godliness.”  In wisdom, He knows this is what is ultimately worthwhile, and His power creates a new desire and a new influence in us, molding our wills that want to make a difference but may not know how.  His power also works in others to provide what we need, or works to put in our path someone who needs us.

The gift of Jesus as Mighty God meets one of our deepest needs:
“To achieve something worthwhile! Jesus is the Mighty God who enables us to do that. We accomplish worthwhile things through his power.” (Boice)

Do you want to achieve worthwhile things this Christmas and in 2023?  Our Mighty God wants to enable us to love Him and love others.  Seek the wisdom of Christ and become empowered by Him to love as you have never loved before.

This is the second gift of Christ in Christmas.

The next post in the series is here.

[1] From “May 10.” James Montgomery Boice and Marion Clark. Come to the Waters: Daily Bible Devotions for Spiritual Refreshment.  (2017).