Jots and Tittles: Messiah

It’d be easy to think, when you first read the Gospels and Epistles, that when God became a man about 2000 years ago and walked along the dusty roads of Israel, He was known by the first name ‘Jesus’ and the surname ‘Christ’.

But that’s not the case. ‘Christ’ is a title meaning the anointed one. It’s a Greek word that corresponds to the Hebrew ‘Messiah’ which also means the anointed one. Anyone who was ‘anointed’ had gone through a ceremony where they’d been dabbed with a specially formulated fragrant oil, often on their earlobe, thumb and big toe. Such a ceremony was reserved for raising up a king, a priest or a prophet and appointing them to their given role.

We often think the Jews of the first century were expecting the Messiah to come and sweep the Romans back into the sea. In part they were, but it wasn’t that simple. Based on a prophecy in the first chapter of Zechariah (verses 18–21), they were actually anticipating more than one Messiah. They eagerly looked forward to a royal Messiah, who would be called ‘Son of David’. And they also keenly anticipated the emergence of a priestly Messiah, who would have the title the ‘Righteous One.’ But that wasn’t all! They thought that, in addition, there would be a war Messiah who would be known as ‘Son of Joseph’. It was believed the war messiah would be the one who was going to take on the Romans, smash their hold on the nation and drive them back to where they came from.

By the time Jesus was born, the Jewish people were looking for a mighty liberator to take them into battle as well as a king whose wealth would dwarf the riches of the Roman Empire. They certainly weren’t expecting that all three Messiahs would be the same person!

No one was expecting a king whose kingdom was not of this world. No one was expecting a priest of the line of Melchizedek and not the lineage of Aaron. No one was expecting a war Messiah whose battle strategy was: ‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.’ (Matthew 5:44 NKJV)

Jesus was a very different kind of Messiah—He was an Anointed One so unusual that even His own disciples didn’t know what to make of Him. Simon, who was bold enough to declare that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, then quickly told Jesus off for explaining that the Messiah had to die!

‘What about you?’ Jesus asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’

Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in Heaven…’ From that time on Jesus began to show His disciples that He must… suffer many things… and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. ‘Far be it from You, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to You!’

But Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me. For you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’

Matthew 16:15–23 BSB

Jesus is a Messiah who is totally surprising, totally unexpected and totally upsetting to those who have their own idea of who He should be. He is King of kings and Lord of lords—in His own way, not in ours.

Loving Yourself

‘Love yourself.’ Matthew 22:39 CEV

When God saves you, He positions you ‘in Christ’. From that moment on, He views you as being righteous. Not because of your ‘own righteousness… but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God.’ (Philippians 3:9 NKJV) When you were growing up, your parents may have given you the impression that, if you were just good enough, they would love and accept you. As a result, you think God feels the same way. But He doesn’t. You could never be good enough to earn God’s love; that’s why He gifts you with Christ’s righteousness and says, ‘I love you unconditionally in spite of all your faults.’

Now you have a true basis for loving yourself! Think: if God loves you then you are worthy of loving, right? That means you can love yourself! And in fact, you must, because you can only give love to others from the wellspring of your own self-esteem. If you wrestle with insecurity, guilt, self-doubt, and self-loathing, eventually it will manifest itself in your relationships.

Swiss psychologist Paul Tournier said: ‘If a person will love God the way he ought to… he will then love others the way he ought to… and when he loves God and others the way they ought to be loved, he will never need a psychiatrist.’

God’s love gives you a mental image of yourself that enables and empowers you to give and receive love from others. The truth is, if you had been the only sinner who ever lived, Christ would have died for you. And when that truly dawns on you, you’ll start to love yourself and develop into the fullness of your God-given potential.

SoulFood: Jer 18–21, Luke 2:41–52, Ps 59:1–8, Pr 14:21–22

word4today an adaptation of The Word For Today is authored by Bob and Debby Gass and published under licence from UCB International Copyright © 2021

Today’s Readings

Jeremiah 18–21

18:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’

12 “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’

13   “Therefore thus says the LORD:
  Ask among the nations,
    Who has heard the like of this?
  The virgin Israel
    has done a very horrible thing.
14   Does the snow of Lebanon leave
    the crags of Sirion?
  Do the mountain waters run dry,
    the cold flowing streams?
15   But my people have forgotten me;
    they make offerings to false gods;
  they made them stumble in their ways,
    in the ancient roads,
  and to walk into side roads,
    not the highway,
16   making their land a horror,
    a thing to be hissed at forever.
  Everyone who passes by it is horrified
    and shakes his head.
17   Like the east wind I will scatter them
    before the enemy.
  I will show them my back, not my face,
    in the day of their calamity.”

18 Then they said, “Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not pay attention to any of his words.”

19   Hear me, O LORD,
    and listen to the voice of my adversaries.
20   Should good be repaid with evil?
    Yet they have dug a pit for my life.
  Remember how I stood before you
    to speak good for them,
    to turn away your wrath from them.
21   Therefore deliver up their children to famine;
    give them over to the power of the sword;
  let their wives become childless and widowed.
    May their men meet death by pestilence,
    their youths be struck down by the sword in battle.
22   May a cry be heard from their houses,
    when you bring the plunderer suddenly upon them!
  For they have dug a pit to take me
    and laid snares for my feet.
23   Yet you, O LORD, know
    all their plotting to kill me.
  Forgive not their iniquity,
    nor blot out their sin from your sight.
  Let them be overthrown before you;
    deal with them in the time of your anger.

19:1 Thus says the LORD, “Go, buy a potter’s earthenware flask, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests, and go out to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom at the entry of the Potsherd Gate, and proclaim there the words that I tell you. You shall say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind—therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. And in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth. And I will make this city a horror, a thing to be hissed at. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its wounds. And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his neighbor in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them.’

10 “Then you shall break the flask in the sight of the men who go with you, 11 and shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: So will I break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, so that it can never be mended. Men shall bury in Topheth because there will be no place else to bury. 12 Thus will I do to this place, declares the LORD, and to its inhabitants, making this city like Topheth. 13 The houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah—all the houses on whose roofs offerings have been offered to all the host of heaven, and drink offerings have been poured out to other gods—shall be defiled like the place of Topheth.’”

14 Then Jeremiah came from Topheth, where the LORD had sent him to prophesy, and he stood in the court of the LORD’s house and said to all the people: 15 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, behold, I am bringing upon this city and upon all its towns all the disaster that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their neck, refusing to hear my words.”

20:1 Now Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the LORD. The next day, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “The LORD does not call your name Pashhur, but Terror on Every Side. For thus says the LORD: Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends. They shall fall by the sword of their enemies while you look on. And I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon. He shall carry them captive to Babylon, and shall strike them down with the sword. Moreover, I will give all the wealth of the city, all its gains, all its prized belongings, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah into the hand of their enemies, who shall plunder them and seize them and carry them to Babylon. And you, Pashhur, and all who dwell in your house, shall go into captivity. To Babylon you shall go, and there you shall die, and there you shall be buried, you and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied falsely.”

  O LORD, you have deceived me,
    and I was deceived;
  you are stronger than I,
    and you have prevailed.
  I have become a laughingstock all the day;
    everyone mocks me.
  For whenever I speak, I cry out,
    I shout, “Violence and destruction!”
  For the word of the LORD has become for me
    a reproach and derision all day long.
  If I say, “I will not mention him,
    or speak any more in his name,”
  there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
    shut up in my bones,
  and I am weary with holding it in,
    and I cannot.
10   For I hear many whispering.
    Terror is on every side!
  “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
    say all my close friends,
    watching for my fall.
  “Perhaps he will be deceived;
    then we can overcome him
    and take our revenge on him.”
11   But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior;
    therefore my persecutors will stumble;
    they will not overcome me.
  They will be greatly shamed,
    for they will not succeed.
  Their eternal dishonor
    will never be forgotten.
12   O LORD of hosts, who tests the righteous,
    who sees the heart and the mind,
  let me see your vengeance upon them,
    for to you have I committed my cause.
13   Sing to the LORD;
    praise the LORD!
  For he has delivered the life of the needy
    from the hand of evildoers.
14   Cursed be the day
    on which I was born!
  The day when my mother bore me,
    let it not be blessed!
15   Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father,
  “A son is born to you,”
    making him very glad.
16   Let that man be like the cities
    that the LORD overthrew without pity;
  let him hear a cry in the morning
    and an alarm at noon,
17   because he did not kill me in the womb;
    so my mother would have been my grave,
    and her womb forever great.
18   Why did I come out from the womb
    to see toil and sorrow,
    and spend my days in shame?

21:1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur the son of Malchiah and Zephaniah the priest, the son of Maaseiah, saying, “Inquire of the LORD for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the LORD will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us.”

Then Jeremiah said to them: “Thus you shall say to Zedekiah, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands and with which you are fighting against the king of Babylon and against the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the walls. And I will bring them together into the midst of this city. I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath. And I will strike down the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast. They shall die of a great pestilence. Afterward, declares the LORD, I will give Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people in this city who survive the pestilence, sword, and famine into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of their enemies, into the hand of those who seek their lives. He shall strike them down with the edge of the sword. He shall not pity them or spare them or have compassion.’

“And to this people you shall say: ‘Thus says the LORD: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you shall live and shall have his life as a prize of war. 10 For I have set my face against this city for harm and not for good, declares the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.’

11 “And to the house of the king of Judah say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, 12 O house of David! Thus says the LORD:

  “‘Execute justice in the morning,
    and deliver from the hand of the oppressor
    him who has been robbed,
  lest my wrath go forth like fire,
    and burn with none to quench it,
    because of your evil deeds.’”
13   “Behold, I am against you, O inhabitant of the valley,
    O rock of the plain,
      declares the LORD;
  you who say, ‘Who shall come down against us,
    or who shall enter our habitations?’
14   I will punish you according to the fruit of your deeds,
      declares the LORD;
    I will kindle a fire in her forest,
    and it shall devour all that is around her.”

Luke 2:41–52

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Psalm 59:1–8

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when Saul sent men to watch his house in order to kill him.

59:1   Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
    protect me from those who rise up against me;
  deliver me from those who work evil,
    and save me from bloodthirsty men.
  For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
    fierce men stir up strife against me.
  For no transgression or sin of mine, O LORD,
    for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.
  Awake, come to meet me, and see!
    You, LORD God of hosts, are God of Israel.
  Rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
    spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah
  Each evening they come back,
    howling like dogs
    and prowling about the city.
  There they are, bellowing with their mouths
    with swords in their lips—
    for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”
  But you, O LORD, laugh at them;
    you hold all the nations in derision.

Proverbs 14:21–22

21   Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,
    but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
22   Do they not go astray who devise evil?
    Those who devise good meet steadfast love and faithfulness.

Sat 26 June, 2021


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