December 1, 2016

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Thursday,  December 1, 2016
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19; Isaiah 4:2-6; Acts 1:12-17, 21-26
By Gary Strauss

As we consider our first passage of Psalm 72:1-7 and 18-19, Marlynn and I perceived the Psalmist praying that God the Father would endow “the royal son,” the coming Savior of the world, with God’s justice so that he might judge the Father’s “people with righteousness and [his] poor with justice.”  He goes on to pray for the people’s welfare, particularly that of the poor, and that they would experience “deliverance.”  A request that the people’s faith and “fear of the Lord” would endure forever follows.  He further requests that this coming “royal son” would be a source of great refreshment, and because of him, “the righteous [would] flourish and peace abound.”  In the final two verses of this portion of the Psalm, the Psalmist blesses “the Lord, the God of Israel,” noting that he “does wondrous things.”

As I write this paragraph within just days of the presidential election and the many implications thereof regarding who will be our nation’s next leader and how that person will lead, I find this portion of Psalm 72 to be my prayer as well for God’s people and our nation—specifically, that Jesus, our righteous Son of God, will do “wondrous things” on behalf of his children and our nation, not because we deserve them, but because he is gracious.

The Isaiah 4:2-6 passage foretells the future of “the survivors of Israel,” as the Lord’s “branch . . . [that] shall be beautiful and glorious,” etc.  For us in these “days of the Gentiles,” the images Isaiah paints are such that we also can desire cleansing from the sins of our nation’s people, beginning with ourselves.  Furthermore, we can pray for God’s grace in the form of his protective presence providing “a refuge and a shelter from the [possible] storm and rain” of future events that may lie before us.

Our third passage from the book of Acts, Ch. 1:12-17 and 21-26 relays to us the fascinating story of how the apostles, having received Jesus’ “great commission” and witnessed his ascension into Heaven, returned to Jerusalem and “went up to the upper room, where they were staying.”  Though the text does not make clear just which “upper room” was involved, it seems likely, or at least possible, that it was the same room in which Jesus and his disciples shared the “Last Supper” together before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion.  And as the group experienced a high level of unity and were “devoting themselves to prayer,” Peter was moved to lead the eleven disciples in the process of a Spirit guided selection of one who would take the position vacated by Judas.  Here we see the Apostles being readied for the arrival of Pentecost, when the Spirit would fill them and the first major evangelistic meeting resulted in the salvation and adding to the company of believers “about three thousand souls.”

What a challenge this progression of the Apostles’ ministry is to us here at Bethlehem, particularly as we pursue our capital campaign and consider how our Lord would have us both continue our present ministries as well as consider how else he would have us serve one another and our surrounding neighbors, being the “salt and light” in our world that we are to be.  May the Holy Spirit both guide and empower us to be and do as he wills in this coming year.