Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas Red- Christmas in Isaiah

This post is the hardest one to write. There is blood red all the way through Isaiah...... all through the Bible... all through the history of man......

We live in a violent world. There is a part of me that regrets the innocence lost and lives lost every time blood is shed.

I still remember what it was like to watch the birth of my daughter. Even birth is a violent struggle of life and death. It is a bloody battle (sorry to be so graphic) and that baby is built for the fight.

The Bible has pages and pages of bloodshed and God often mentions how the land cries out in horror over innocent blood being spilled.

We tend to romanticize the birth of Jesus- sweet lambs, clean manger, nice soft hay........

It was anything but that!

These were desperately poor people, alone in an unsafe world- it was cold, dark, unsanitary.... there were no doctors or pain medication... and this baby was part of a cosmic struggle.

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. [2] She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. [3] And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. [4] His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. (Revelation 12:1-4 ESV)

This was not a safe situation. Later, King Herod would command the killing of children in his desperate attempt to kill a potential rival king.


Isaiah 63 may be the most brutal passage in all of Isaiah:

Who is this who comes from Edom,
in crimsoned garments from Bozrah,
he who is splendid in his apparel,
marching in the greatness of his strength?
“It is I, speaking in righteousness,
mighty to save.”
Why is your apparel red,
and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?
I have trodden the winepress alone,
and from the peoples no one was with me;
I trod them in my anger
and trampled them in my wrath;
their lifeblood spattered on my garment
and stained all my apparel.
For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and my year of redemption had come.
I looked, but there was no one to help;
I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold;
so my own arm brought me salvation,
and my wrath upheld me.
I trampled down the peoples in my anger;
I made them drunk in my wrath,
and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”
We find an equally chilling parallel reference in Revelation 14:
14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse's bridle, for 1,600 stadia.
 "Grapes of Wrath" is the title of a book by John Steinbeck, an analogy to the unfathomable suffering of the Oakies driven to despair by the effects of the Great Depression. Steinbeck struggled with finding a title, but the motive of his writing the book was always clear: "I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this." 

We have also sung about this for years without taking any thought to it's source:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on. ( The Battle Hymn of the Republic)

I challenge you to meditate for a minute on WHY is there a Winepress of Wrath

For every human being who has ever been bullied and bloodied for doing nothing.
For every child who has been abused in life altering moments of unspeakable horror.
For every person who was made to watch loved ones injured or killed.
For every child who suffered alone and no one ever cared enough to help.
For every lie and plan of deceit that caused deep, dark pain.
For every twisted lust that led to oppression or imprisonment.
For every instance where someone with everything took the only thing of an outcast soul.
For every cry of need that has fallen on a cold, dead heart of another.

There is One who has over and over, and over and over again tried to show His love and mercy, sent sign after sign, circumstance after circumstance, and finally His own beloved Son.

I'm sure you are familiar with the famous passage, The Suffering Servant, in Is. 53. Written 700 years before Jesus was born? - look at the amazing verses again:

Is. 52:14 As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.

Is 53:
53:1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? 
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; 
and as one from whom men hide their faces 
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief; 
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Have you considered the death and resurrection of Christ as a part of Christmas? The baby was born to die.
There is something

I want you to do sometime, and that is study the Shroud of Turin. YOU CAN SEE IT HERE: 

also..... a lesser known 'relic' called the Suderium of Oviedo. 

Did you know that the measurements of the face and the placement of the wounds are matched on these two pieces of cloth?

Consider the testimony of John:
"20:5 He bent down and saw the strips of linen cloth lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter, who had been following him, arrived and went right into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen cloth lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been around Jesus’ head, not lying with the strips of linen cloth but rolled up in a place by itself."

Whether you accept these relics as real or not, I encourage you to look at the crucified man pictured in the shroud and contemplate what Jesus did for us. He came not to live for Himself... He came to die for me.

That has to take Christmas to a deeper level... the red he shed for me.

And the result? Spitting and indifference. Apathy and rejection. Abuse and neglect.

I have often thought about this amazing analogy:

Billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God's throne.  Some of the groups near the front talked heatedly--not with cringing shame, but with belligerence. "How can God judge us?" said one. "What does He know about suffering?" snapped a brunette. She jerked back a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. "We endured terror, beatings, torture, death!" In another group a black man lowered his collar. "What about this?" he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. "Lynched for no crime but being black! We have suffocated in slave ships, been wrenched from loved ones, toiled till death gave release." Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He permitted in His world. How lucky God was to live in heaven where there was no weeping, no fear, no hunger, no hatred!Indeed, what did God know about what man had been forced to endure in this world? "After all, God leads a pretty sheltered life," they said.So each group sent out a leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. There was a Jew, a black, an untouchable from India, an illegitimate, a person from Hiroshima, and one from a Siberian slave camp. In the center of the plain they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather simple: before God would be qualified to be their judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth--as a man! But because He was God, they set certain safeguards to be sure He could not use His divine powers to help Himself: Let Him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of His birth be doubted, so that none would know who is really His father. Let Him champion a cause so just, but so radical, that it brings down upon Him the hate, condemnation, and efforts of every major traditional and established religious authority to eliminate Him. Let Him try to describe what no man has ever seen, tasted, heard, or smelled--let Him try to communicate God to men. Let Him be betrayed by His dearest friends. Let Him be indicted on false charges, tried before a prejudiced jury, and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let Him see what it is to be terribly alone and completely abandoned by every living thing. Let Him be tortured and let Him die! Let Him die the most humiliating death--with common thieves.As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the great throngs of people. But when the last had finished pronouncing sentence,there was a long silence. No one uttered another word. No one moved. For suddenly all knew -- God had already served His sentence.   --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 302.

The testimony of man is not pretty..... blood was shed very soon after the fall.... and great crimes have been committed ... all of them ultimately an offense against an INFINITE CREATOR.

And God was faced with a terrible situation- His holiness demanded punishment and His love cried out for mercy.

That is why the Christmas gift is so special..... 

Jesus was born, lived a sinless life, and willingly gave Himself to atone for infinite crimes and sin. He was a man and He was God, fully satisfying the wrath required because blood had been shed.

3,000 years ago, Isaiah must have read what he wrote and marveled at the mystery... what did this mean?

2,000 years ago, God made it clear- Jesus told us in very simple terms:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [18] Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. [19] And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. [20] For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. [21] But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:16-21 ESV)

Every time I see Christmas green... I think of the tender shoot that came out of the stump of Jesse.....

And every time I see Christmas red... I think of the blood that was shed for me.....

And I get on my knees at Christmas, praising God... marveling myself at the mystery...

Please do not reject this Savior...IF YOU DO... you are putting YOURSELF in the vat of His winepress... and He will begin at the pre-determined time to carry out His final act...

It will not be a pretty sight......

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