Bible Tuesday for Christmas Day, 2016
7 How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’
8 Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
9 Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the victory of our God.
This passage is a summary of the previous chapter, where God responds to the pleading prayer of Israel to rescue them from captivity. When Israel and Judah were taken into captivity by Assyria and then Babylonia, they believed that God had either abandoned them or was weaker than the gods of their captors. The prophets in the Hebrew scriptures all ascribe the Jewish losses to their unfaithfulness to God, but the Jewish people were not so sure. This passage of Isaiah addresses those doubts. Note that verse 7 ends in “Your God reigns!” and verse 10 ends with “All the ends of the earth shall see the victory of our God.”
This passage reflects the history of the time. The Persians had already defeated Babylonia when this was written and some Jews had already returned to Jerusalem. This is made plain in verse 8, where sentinels who rejoice at the sight of God are mentioned.
1 O sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gained him victory.
2 The Lord has made known his victory;
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody.
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.
7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
8 Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
9 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.
While many verses in the Hebrew Scriptures speak of what God will do, this psalm describes the rejoicing of what God has already done. All of creation, both animate and inanimate, praise God.
The marvels that God has enacted are so wondrous that already known praise songs are inadequate. New music, new lyrics, groundbreaking style must be imagined to mark the marvel of God beheld by God’s people.
Not only has God done wonders, but God will continue to act marvelously in pure righteousness and equity. No good lawyers, no bribes, no legal technicalities will help or harm any who stand before God.
11Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son,*whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains* all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
‘You are my Son;
today I have begotten you’?
‘I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son’?
6And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’
7Of the angels he says,
‘He makes his angels winds,
and his servants flames of fire.’
8But of the Son he says,
‘Your throne, O God, is* for ever and ever,
and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your* kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’
‘In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like clothing;
12 like a cloak you will roll them up,
and like clothing* they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will never end.’
Whether the author of Hebrews was able to read the gospel of John, or the author of John was able to read the book of Hebrews, they open their books with very similar ideas. Jesus is no ordinary son. The author of Hebrews describes Jesus as God, and dives right into the confusing concept of God, the intangible, works through Jesus, the tangible yet God, in order to create and sustain tangible things, that being all that is. Not only is Jesus the means through which God creates, Jesus is also the heir of all creation.
The idea, the systematic, the theology, is this: God is perfection and because of sin, humans are not. Because humans live in creation and sin in creation, creation is no longer perfect either. God tries and tries and tries to have relationship with humanity, as the Hebrew scriptures attest, but humans misinterpret, ignore, and reject God. Humans find God too high, too far away, too fearful and wonderful to relate to. So, in some mystery beyond human comprehension, God who is one being but somehow three persons, separates one of the persons who is, by pure miracle, born to a human mother (no sexual intercourse involved) thus human, but also God. God, Mary, and Joseph name this human/God Iesua, or Jesus, which means “God saves”. Jesus/God does exactly what his name means. Jesus lives the perfect human life, models how humans can be in relationship with God, models how God is in relationship with humans and all creation, and then is innocent yet executed by the very humans he taught. Because Jesus accomplished all this, God not only created all through him but now makes him heir of all that is.
The author of Hebrews expresses this idea of Jesus by quoting scriptures which refute incorrect ideas of who Jesus is that were in circulation at the time. Some thought Jesus was some kind of angel but the scriptures quoted in the above passage of Hebrews establishes that angels are in fact inferior of and servants to Jesus.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.*
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own,* and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,* full of grace and truth.
Logos- “The Word” in this passage is the English translation of the Greek word “logos”. As with “word”, “logos” has many meanings and shades thereof. “Logos” in its most basic sense means to reckon or to explain, as in to give an accounting of. It can also refer to lists of items or people. The “logos” is always spoken; with no hearer there is no “logos”. In this sense “logos” also means to gather or to assemble, as in “The people gather in assembly.” “Logos” means promise as in, “I give you my word”. “Logos” means will as in “Gramma’s will is that you come home for Christmas” and “last will and testimony” which is a list of what the author desires after his/her death.
The above passage of John’s gospel identifies Jesus as the “Logos” of God made flesh. Jesus is an explanation of God. Jesus also gathers and assembles people to teach them about and show them God. Jesus is the sower of God’s “logos”, only some of which falls on good soil. Jesus is and does God’s will. Jesus is the fullest expression of God that humans can comprehend.
Jesus/God- The four gospels present Jesus in three different ways by answering the question, “When did Jesus become God?” Mark skips any information about Jesus until Jesus is baptized and God’s voice is heard saying “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” Mark seems to be presenting Jesus as becoming God’s son at baptism, as sort of adoption. Matthew and Luke both tell stories of Jesus’ conception, whether Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary or Joseph’s dreams of guidance to marriage. Through these events, Matthew and Luke present Jesus as God’s son at conception. In the above passage, it is the writer of John who presents Jesus as God’s son and God for all eternity.
As Jesus is born of God, so are the faithful – Jewish tradition states that one becomes a child of God by becoming Jewish. In the above passage, John states things quite differently. “To all who receive him, he gives the power to become children of God…” One becomes a child of God, not by being born Jewish, or by converting to Judaism, but by receiving Jesus as God’s word in the flesh. It is God who does this, not inheritance or blood lines.
Lived among us – This is an English translation of the Jewish idiom “pitched his tent among all of ours”. A modern translation of this would be “The word became a human who moved in next door.” Indeed! Alleluia!