Christmas time finds me sampling a whole lot of delicious treats, and I’m not complaining at all! But I’m a pretty simple guy, so one of my favorite treats is just plain old peanut butter. I love it! Sometimes I stick my spoon right in the jar and eat a big spoonful.
But then there’s the age-old problem: How do you get peanut butter off the roof of your mouth? You can use your tongue or try blowing on it. Or you can use your finger!
But then there’s another problem: How do you get peanut butter off your finger? Blow it? Shake it? Or eat it!
Hmm, now I seem to be back to the original problem: How do you get peanut butter off the roof of your mouth?
Maybe you’ve tried to solve one problem, only to create another problem. And then when you solve that problem you find yourself right back where you started! Round and round it goes!
The Israelites were facing much the same situation. They sinned, God punished them through King Nebuchadnezzar, they tried to rebel, they were taken into captivity, and then they were finally allowed to return to Jerusalem after 70 years. But they still weren’t in charge of their own fate. First it was the Babylonians calling the shots, then the Medians, then the Persians, and then the Romans. Luke begins the birth story of Jesus with the words “in the days of Caesar Augustus” (Luke 2:1).
The Israelites were waiting for God to restore their Promised Land to them. Some people believed a miraculous champion was going to come on the scene (much like Samson of old), and some thought a new anointed king from King David’s line would appear and rally an army to himself.
We can understand this because of one of the prophecies from Isaiah 9 that talks about a warrior and God’s zeal.
That word “warrior” got people pumped up! As did the promise that “the zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this”! For many, this was their proof that God wanted His people to rule this Promised Land for themselves
We’ve been going through a series called People Will Talk, and these voices of a miraculous champion or a new king from David’s line were loud voices to be sure. But interestingly, the Bible doesn’t record much of what these loud voices were saying.
Also among the people of this time there was another group that were called “the Quiet in the Land.” These were people who didn’t talk very much, but instead they clung to the promise spoken by God Himself of the Messiah. One of these quiet ones was a man named Simeon.
He was called “righteous and devout” and someone “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Which meant he carefully attended to the prophecies of Scripture. The Amplified Bible says that Simeon “lived in prayerful expectancy [of] the Lord’s Christ.”
I left out an important part of that prophecy in Isaiah 9—something that I think the loud ones overlooked or downplayed too. In between those words about “warrior” and “God’s zeal” we read this: “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given. The government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
What does the “Prince of Peace” have to do with a warrior? Quite simply, when Jesus the Messiah came, the struggle was over. Jesus was the Warrior King who defeated the enemy of sin that kept us out of God’s presence.
The loud Israelites believed God wanted His people to rule their Promised Land for themselves. But God wanted a people exclusively for Himself. ALL people—Jews and Gentiles alike—regardless of where or when they lived!
Jesus is the way into God’s presence. He told us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
You can try to solve your own problems, but only Jesus can bring the ultimate salvation. In the Christmas carol Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, check out the lyrics of the second stanza:
A relationship with Jesus means there is no more struggle of trying to solve our own problems, or figure out how things are supposed to work, or pushing down one problem only to have another one pop up. We come to the One and Only One who can raise us to His glorious throne forever and ever!
Advent is a celebration of the end of our struggle because Jesus has made the way for us to have peace with God.
And that means a very Merry Christmas indeed!
If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Advent series People Will Talk, you can find links to all of them by clicking here.