Publication:Pastoral Letter, December 2014
Dear Friend in Christ:
As Christmas approaches I am happy to celebrate the greatest event in human history, the entrance of the Son of God into the world. He is the Word made flesh and the fulfillment of the words of the prophets. What does all of this mean for us as we prepare for 2015 and beyond?
There are two books on my mind as I write to you; The System Bible Study, given to me by my father in 1956, and David Limbaugh’s new book, Jesus on Trial. The System Bible Study is a wonderful gathering of materials from some of the greatest scholars, and is almost 800 pages of wisdom. Among its sections are prophecies concerning Jesus.
David Limbaugh’s book is his journey to faith in Jesus as he got personally acquainted with the Holy Book. Limbaugh is an attorney who finally set out to see for himself what the Bible actually said. What impressed him, and impresses me, is the prophetic quality of the Bible which claims to be, and is, the very Word of God.
Both of these books detail the many prophesies that refer to a coming Messiah, anointed King, how He would be born, where He would be born, and what He would accomplish. It is the veracity of these prophecies, some given many centuries before, that authenticate the Bible and confirm to us that Jesus Christ is Who He said He was – and is.
These prophecies are much more than predictions, they are revelations given by the Holy Spirit to “Holy Men of Old”. The Bible is many things, but it is certainly “supernatural”, written by more than 40 men, over a time period of 1500 years, who, for the most part did not know one another, but had a common message from God that pointed to the birth of Jesus.
There is no way in this brief letter to list the many prophetic passages that pertain to Jesus, but it’s important to reference a few so that we can be more aware of Who He is and how we can share His life with others. When I attended seminary, I studied the book of Isaiah, under the teaching of Dr. Kyle Yates, a master of ancient languages. We spent a lot of time focusing on the Messianic prophecies such as those in Isaiah 7:14-17; 9:6-7; 11:1-5; 32:1-4; 42:1-25; 49:1-26; 50:1-11; 53:1-12; 61:1-3. There are numerous others given by Abraham, Moses, David, Micah, Zechariah, and others.
Perhaps the most amazing of all the prophecies is Isaiah 53, which details Jesus’ Crucifixion. Crucifixions were not even practiced among the Jews in those days and came to be practiced by the Romans as they controlled Israel hundreds of years after Isaiah’s life. Other prophecies tell how and where He would be born, what He would do, how and why He would die, His resurrection, and ascension. They tell us of His high priestly ministry at the Father’s right hand (see Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:17).
David tells us that God’s desire is not sacrifices and offerings but open ears that cause hearers to do His will (see Psalm 40:6-8; Hebrews 10:5-10). The writer of the book of Hebrews confirms that David was speaking of Jesus who entered our world 1000 years later.
All of these prophets speak of events far beyond natural comprehension (see 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:21). They were yielding to the Holy Spirit (see Amos 3:8). Moses spoke that God would raise up a prophet, just as Moses was a prophet. God would put His Word in the mouth of His prophet, and this prophet would speak all that was commanded Him, and the people would be required to listen (see Deuteronomy 18:15-19). Israel had refused to hear the voice of God directly while they were at Sinai, but God would send One that they would hear.
Given that prophets were speaking from the Eternal Spirit and their words came to pass on earth, their words were the “plumbline” to correct and guide human events (see Amos 7:7-9). A plumbline is a tool that tells a mason if the wall is perfectly straight. The apostle John tells us that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh and dwelling among us. He is the prophet like Moses, the plumbline dropped into the crooked human condition.
It is significant that when Jesus was born, only a few people understood who He really was. The angel had prophesied to Joseph and Mary, wise men had seen the star, Simeon and Anna had seen Him and prophesied, Zachariah and Elizabeth (parents of John the Baptist), had also prophesied Who Jesus would be (see Luke chapters 1 and 2). Jesus was the long-awaited descendant of Abraham, Jacob, and David … the Messiah.
It is also significant that Herod, who was the corrupt Roman ruler of Israel, tried to kill Jesus by killing all children who were two years old and under in the village of Bethlehem. Corrupt people hate true prophets and Jesus was the Prophet; the fulfillment of the words of all the prophets who had preceded Him.
Jesus respected and admired the prophets. He lamented over Jerusalem because they killed the prophets rather than hearing them (see Matthew 23:37). Israel had wanted “smooth sayings” (see Isaiah 30:10), but the prophets spoke corrective words from God. So Israel killed them, but later
suffered the consequences of ignoring the truth. David is one of the few examples of a leader who responded to a prophet (see 2 Samuel 12). When Nathan rebuked David for the sins of adultery and murder, David repented (see Psalm 51). He “fell on the Rock” before the Rock fell on him.
Jesus not only respected and admired those who had given their lives to tell the truth, He was and is “The Truth” Who gave His life to tell the truth to the world. The apostle John says that Jesus was full of both grace truth (see John 1:14). Thank God for both … we need both!
Jesus became Truth in the manger, Truth in the baptismal waters, Truth in the street, Truth in the temple, Truth on the Cross, and the Truth Who rose again. Jesus, the Truth, is eternal. The truth is not self-serving, political, religious or even merely scientific; it is Jesus. The Truth entered and walked through history, is recorded in the Bible, and testifies to us in our day (see Proverbs 8:32-36; Proverbs 10:8).
LIVING THE TRUTH
Can we truly love the baby Jesus or the preaching Jesus and not love the truth? Can we celebrate the birth of Jesus and not love the truth? I think not. Even when the truth corrects us, should we not love it? Will we be like Israel and say, “Give us nice prophecies”?
In 2 Timothy 3, Paul prophesies that perilous times would come. Among the reasons was that people would be “Ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of truth.” They would actually “resist the truth.” In chapter 4, Paul says that they would not endure sound doctrine and would turn away from the truth (4:3-4). Nevertheless, he told Timothy to continue to preach the truth in every season. “Smooth sayings” will never bring the awakening that our world so desperately needs.
Paul preached the truth unto his own martyrdom. Like prophets of old, he was accountable for what God said, regardless (see Ezekiel 2:1-8; 3:16-21; Isaiah 6). These men, prophets and apostles, loved the truth more than their own lives. Only the truth can bring true repentance, and that raises the big question.
Each evening I pray for pastors and all who are in authority. I pray that they will have courage. Courage is the missile that launches the truth. Those who fail to bring the truth are what C.S. Lewis called “Chestless Men.” We live in an extremely dangerous time, primarily because the politically correct culture obscures the truth. It can be dangerous to tell the truth, not only in the culture, but even in church. When one speaks the truth, that person is liable to experience the “wrath of Herod” or the devil. The culture has come to church.
Just recently, the openly lesbian mayor of Houston, Texas, ordered certain area pastors to turn over all of their sermon notes and personal communications. These are pastors who spoke out against an ordinance that would allow transgender people to go into any restroom of their choice. She did so because she deemed these pastors’ communication to be “political” and in violation of the so-called separation doctrine. Of course, she faced a justified outcry.
Around the same time, a popular and influential church network stated that it will take no stand on homosexual issues; that has also raised an outcry among many Christians. This lack of ability to take a stand is indicative of many ministries who will not take any stand that the public may deem controversial. In other words, “We will only prophesy smooth sayings and lullabies.” That position will not only be acceptable to our culture, but will likely bring acclaim.
The motive for telling the truth must be love. Anger, criticism, or some other motive is destructive. The apostle Paul, preacher of truth said, “Speaking the truth in love” causes people to grow up. Jesus spoke truth, but wept over Jerusalem because He loved it. The prophets loved Israel. We must love those to whom we speak the truth.
But, if we “love” yet fail to tell the truth, do we really love? What about parents who “love” their children but refuse to discipline; do they truly love? I think not. To love is to correct because we love. Those who fail to bring the truth because they “love”, in fact, love themselves because they fear the possible consequence. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.” He loved us even in the face of the consequences that His Son endured. We should love those to whom we speak that much – more than the consequence.
No doubt Mary loved this baby. But this baby was unique – the Son of God by the Holy Spirit. Like some mothers, she could not provide a beautiful crib, toys, or a playroom. The child that fed from her breast was destined to pierce her heart (see Luke 2:33-35). As He grew, she watched the truth grow up to be a man, Messiah, the Prophet of which Moses spoke, the Son of David (David being an ancestor of Mary). Then she watched Him crucified. The sword of truth cut her heart. She was indeed a great woman that nurtured the truth in love.
My prayer is that this Christmas will be a great celebration of the truth made flesh dwelling among us. And that, loving Him, the Truth will continue among us. “Glory Hallelujah, His truth is marching on.”
P.S. I hope you are planning to be with us for our May 12-15 2015 Gatlinburg Conference, where our featured speaker will be Nik Ripken. We will also have special events on May 12, as I celebrate 60 years of ministry. Visit www.csmpublishing.org for more information. And, please see the card enclosed for a special audio resource that will encourage and refresh you in the joy of the Lord.
All contributions to Charles Simpson Ministries (CSM) are tax deductible. CSM is a 501 (C) (3) organization as recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.
Scripture Reference: Isaiah, Psalms, Hebrews, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Amos, John, Matthew, Proverbs, 2 Timothy, Ezekiel