Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD. (Isaiah 2:2, 5)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day. Then for the next four days, God created all things that we see, such as stars, the sun and the moon, all trees and plants, all kinds of living creatures in the sea, in the sky and on the earth. Thus, the earth was full of living things. However, there is no one human being on the earth.
On the sixth day, Gods specially created Adam and Eve after His image. God was really pleased with His creation, and He loved them. God exceedingly pleased and blessed them. Let them live in the garden in Eden, where all sorts of trees grew up from the ground. Trees were beautiful, and produced all kinds of delicious fruits.
One day, the serpent came and deceived Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, and then Adam ate too. They broke God’s command, and due to their sin, they had to leave the Garden of Eden. The life of the outside of the Garden was not like the life before in the Garden. There was full of pains and sorrows. However, God continued loving them, and even promised eternal salvations. God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife, Eve to protect, which was the sign for God’s promise to send our Savior, Jesus Christ to slay on the cross for the sins and to reconcile with God again.
After the fall, Adam and Eve’s decedents continued yearning for the eternal salvations, but they did not live out lives on earth that were not aligned with God. All missed the target of God. Sins and deceits became common, and sufferings and haterism among people were more and more. All became sin, and no one was righteous before God. However, God continuously loved His creation, and called out Abraham. Abram was particularly righteous before God, but God chose Abraham according to His good will. Then God gave His solemn promise. Abraham believed the promise! Then Abraham left his people who were sinful and worshipping idols instead of God, the LORD, who created the heavens and earth. Indeed, Abraham went without knowing where he was going. He just believed and obeyed God in faith, while hoping for the promise.
Abraham’s faith pleased God, and God blessed Abraham and his descendants. They multiplied on earth. However, their lives on earth were not always comfortable. There were famines. One of the famines made them journey down to Egypt, and settle there, which eventually made them slaves for Egyptians. Even so, they continued believing God, and hoping for their salvation from Egypt. God continue blessed them to continue multiplying in Egypt. As the set time came, God made them released from the bondage of the slavery in Egypt. Almost two million people came out of Egypt, and safely crossed the Red Sea by the power of Almighty God, while the chasing Egyptian armies drowned in the Red Sea. The Israelites rejoiced and gave the highest praise and thanks to God.
However, due to their sinful nature and unbelief, they had to wonder in the wilderness for the next forty years till the unbelieving generation died out in the wilderness, and the new generation completely replaced the older generation out of the Egypt. The new generation of the Israelites entered in the Promised Land, but it was not like the Garden of Eden. They had to fight before occupying the land because the people were already living in the land. Their sufferings on earth after the fall continued even in the Promised Land. Whenever they cried out to God, God, who was merciful, saw their pains, and sent judges and prophets. The judges and prophets rescued them, and guided them through the paths of righteousness. However, their hearts were not completely upright. Soon their hearts were being hardened again. Then they went back to their sinful nature of worshipping their own idols instead of the living and loving God, who created heaven and earth.
Their eyes were also fixated on earth by looking around the kingdoms. All of them had their own king. They tempted and wanted to have a king like the surrounding kingdoms. They asked kings. Repetitively, God told them they did not want to a king because kings would make their lives harder, more painful and miserable. They refused to hear God. They continuously asked their king, while rejecting God and His warnings. Then God, who was merciful, allowed them to have a king. Anyone who had children really understand how painful when children ask something not really needed and even harmful. For the crying children, we give what they want, but as a parent, we know that there is a bad consequence that waits for our disobedient children. The same thing had happened to the Abraham’s descendent, i.e., the people of Israel. They suffered by pains and hardships caused by their kings chosen by own hands. Even so, they did not made 180 degrees turn to return to God, but they continued their own path.
Not long time later, the Israel kingdom was split. From beginning, the northern kingdom of Israel was sided with evils instead God. All of the kings committed great sins before God. The northern kingdom was actually the majority of the Israelites by having ten tribes out of the twelve tribes of the Israelites. Because of their sins, the northern kingdom, i.e., the ten tribes of the Israelites, fell, and then the land became the land of unbelievers. (Later, the people lived in the region became Samaritan. In the time of Jesus, the Jews did not want to get close to Samaritan. Not to meet the Samaritans, the Jews always went around the entire region of the Samaria.) The Southern kingdom, Judah, also became sinful as the northern kingdom. Their kings also sinned before God like the northern kings. God allowed them being conquered by Babylon. They were taken captive to Babylon. In Babylon, Their lives were in sorrows and pains. Here is one of the psalms that tells their sorrows and pains in their hearts:
Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept
as we thought of Jerusalem.
We put away our harps,
hanging them on the branches of poplar trees.
For our captors demanded a song from us.
Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn:
“Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!”
But how can we sing the songs of the LORD
while in a pagan land? (Psalm 137:1-4)
They could not forget Jerusalem, where they used to heartfully worshipped God. Even in their dreams, they yarned for returning to Jerusalem to worship God again, while reminding the great joy in God in His temple in Jerusalem. They continued:
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget how to play the harp.
May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth
if I fail to remember you,
if I don’t make Jerusalem my greatest joy. (Psalm 137:5-6)
God, who is gracious and full of mercy, never forgets His people. He carefully watches over every step of His children, while being forgiving and patient. When Peter asked “Shall I forgive seven times?” Jesus answered “until seventy times seven.” Literally, is there anyone of us who can patiently forgive 490 times for a same offense to us? We have been never able to find a person who has actually forgiven 490 times. Surely, it is impossible by our own might, but God always does. (How many times did we offend God, who truly love and patient to us as Ever-loving father? To me, it is definitely more than 490 times.)
While being captive, one thing did the Israelites right. They did not lose hope, and believed God would restored them. They hoped and hoped in faith although things around them told a completely different story. Their captors poked their deep wounds in their hearts. The captors tormented the Israelites daily. One day, the captors asked to sing a song of Jerusalem. It gave them more pain to the Israelites. However, they did not lose their hope in God, and hold on tight their faith in God. That is, they looked up God, and saw God’s salvation through the Messiah. God heard their cries, and foretold their salvation through the mouth of Prophet Isaiah:
Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever.
The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
a light will shine. (Isaiah 9:1-2)
God told the Israelites that the darkness would not last forever. The land of deep darkness would see the shining light, because God prepared the light for His people. Their hope in God would not be wasted, because the dawn was near. The promise of God would be fulfilled: the savior would come.
For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen! (Isaiah 9:6-7)
The savior would come to His people as a child. He would take all sins and transgression on His shoulder for all people. He would bring peace and reconciliation with God by redeeming all sins. Man-made kingdoms would never last, but God’s kingdom would be forever by ruling with fairness and justice from the throne of God. This hope was given to the people of Israel through the grace, mercy and love of God.
Indeed, our Jesus Christ, the true Savior, came as promised by God and hopped by the Israelites. He took all our sins on His shoulder, and went up on the cross. By shedding His redeeming blood, all our sins and transgressions are gone. For one who truly believe Jesus Christ as Savior would not be perish and have an eternal life. This is the blessed message from God, and our hope on earth.
Darker and darker everything around us? Then rejoice in Him in hope. As the night is deeper, the dawn is near. Especially, our eternal salvation is getting nearer and nearer day by day. Praise God! Give thanks to God, who is our Ever-Loving Father!
And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11-12)