O come, O come, Emmanuel Bible Study

O come, O come, Emmanuel is a very old Christmas hymn that dates back to around the 12th century. It was translated from Latin to English by John M. Neale in 1851. Known for it’s haunting melody and rich messianic themes, it has remained a Christmas favorite for centuries. Let’s look at three stanzas.

O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Israel, like sheep, had wandered away from God. Held prisoner by their sin, they longed for the promised Savior who would restore their relationship with the Father by making “his soul an offering for sin”, thus making “intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:6;12) The Savior would pay the ransom that was owed and would lead the captives into the presence of God.

The hymn writer tells Israel to rejoice because Emmanuel is this Savior. Emmanuel means “God with us.” God Himself would be their Savior just as He had always been in times past. God is not unconcerned or unaware of their troubles. No, He loves those who are lost and comes to save them personally.

We’re to rejoice as well. Christ’s sacrifice was so great that it couldn’t be limited to just Israel. He is “salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6) He is my salvation and your salvation and the salvation of any who call upon His name. (Romans 10:12-13)

O come, O Rod of Jesse free,
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave

The “Rod of Jesse” is a reference to David’s father and the family line from which Christ would come. By becoming a man Christ would be able to be mankind’s kinsmen redeemer. A kinsmen redeemer was a close relative who would purchase back something a relative had sold because of debt.

Man, in a sense, sold his salvation to pay the sin debt he owed. By becoming a man, and living a perfect life, Jesus owed no debt making him qualified to become our kinsmen redeemer and purchase us back from sin.

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer,
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Dayspring is the dawn, the first light of day. When our spirits were dark like midnight Christ rose like the “Sun of Righteousness” (Malachi 4:2) to be the “light of the world”. (John 8:12)

“Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high has visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

Rejoice! O Israel and all the world! God is with us and has set us free.

God With Us

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

Let us today go down to Bethlehem, and in company with wondering shepherds and adoring Magi, let us see Him who was born King of the Jews, for we by faith can claim an interest in Him, and can sing, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”

Jesus is God incarnate, our Lord and our God, and yet our brother and friend; let us adore and admire. Let us notice at the very first glance His miraculous conception. It was a thing unheard of before, and unparalleled since, that a virgin should conceive and bear a Son.

The first promise was this: “The seed of the woman,” not the offspring of the man. Since a woman led the way in the sin which brought Paradise lost, she, and she alone, ushers in the Regainer of Paradise. Our Saviour, although truly man, was also the Holy One of God.

Let us reverently bow before the holy Child whose innocence restores to mankind its ancient glory; and let us pray that He may be formed in us, the hope of glory.

Don’t fail to note His humble parentage. His mother has been described simply as “a virgin,” not a princess, or prophetess, nor a matron of large estate.

True the blood of kings ran in her veins; and her mind was not a weak and untaught one, for she could sing most sweetly a song of praise; but yet how humble her position, how poor the man to whom she stood affianced, and how miserable the accommodation afforded to the new-born King!

Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendour.

– Charles Spurgeon

Thanks Living

November brings us to the time of year when we observe our national Thanksgiving holiday here in the US. I’m glad we have a special day set aside to remember God’s gracious provision for us. But, that shouldn’t obscure the reality that we are commanded by God to demonstrate a grateful spirit every day of the year. I call that a spirit of “Thanksliving.”

How important is it to be thankful? In Romans 1:21, Paul outlines the downward course of a person toward reprobation. He says, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful…” One of the first steps away from God is, not exercising a grateful spirit.

The secret of maintaining a grateful spirit is to be Content

Ungratefulness and covetousness are closely related. In I Corinthians 6:9,10 covetousness is listed right beside sins such as immorality and drunkenness. That’s because this sin becomes the channel by which we are led deeper into the sins of the flesh and spirit.

Hebrews 13:5 tells us that the secret to maintaining a grateful spirit is to be Content. To me, contentment has always carried the idea of being satisfied, being at rest. Like the proverbial cow, chewing its cud. But this is a verb, it denotes action. This word carries the idea of raising a barrier; to ward off something. We must ward off things that foster discontent. Someone has defined contentment this way; “recognizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness.” That attitude will insulate us from the rank materialism that is so pervasive in our culture.

The ability to be Content rest on our faith in God’s promises

Why can you and I be content with what we have? Because God has promised that He will NEVER leave us or forsake us. The literal translation is like this. “No, I will not leave thee; no, neither will I not utterly forsake thee.” It is a very emphatic statement. This is the ultimate security. And that’s what we are seeking when we struggle with covetousness; security. And that’s what we are seeking when we struggle with covetousness; security. We must realize that true security is found in our relationship to God and His promises to us.

That realization of God’s care should dispel all our fears. The word fear, in Hebrews 13:6 is the equivalent of our word phobia. Now a phobia is not temporary fright. A phobia is a state of fear one lives in. The dictionary says it is an irrational fear. So, for believers, the fear of man is irrational. Jesus said, “don’t fear those who kill the body but fear Him who can destroy both soul and body.”

Our faith in God’s promises is demonstrated by our lifestyle choices

One thing I want to make clear, there is a vast difference between contentment and complacence! Remember, contentment is active. It’s accepting what God has given and using it for His glory. It’s erecting a barrier to those things that foster discontent. Complacence is passive, it’s the attitude of, “whatever.” It gives the idea of not caring or not being concerned. 1 Timothy 6:6 states that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” What are some practical things we can do to develop this quality of great value?

Realize that all we have comes from God.

Accepting the sovereignty of God goes a long way in helping us to be content. This applies to possessions, circumstances, abilities, spiritual gifts and so on. Along with that we must be convinced that who we are is not dependent on what we have.

Flee from temptation.

Don’t go to the mall, the sporting goods store, or the tool aisle at Home Depot just to “window shop.” You may think it’s harmless but it feeds that desire for more. You know Satan will always help us find ways to justify our selfishness.

Our lifestyle choices reflect our contentment or lack of it

Be willing to give as the Lord directs you. Have you ever been saving money for a particular need, or want, and God directed you to take that money and give to a need that someone else has? Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit in relation to giving. That will help you develop a contented heart.

Be aware of the plight of our brothers and sisters in other lands who suffer for their faith in Christ.

By entering into their sufferings and seeing how committed they are and how little they have materially, we can be challenged to be more content. Wishing you Happy ThanksLiving and the great riches of contentment!

Sincerely in the HOPE of the Gospel, HERALDS OF HOPE, INC.

© Copyright 2002, Heralds of Hope, Inc.

5 Kernels Of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. Besides symbolizing a time when many of us gather together to feast on turkey, cranberry sauce, and apple pie, what does the word truly mean? America’s revered holiday was founded by a group of struggling Pilgrims during the fall of 1621.

Peter Marshall and David Manuel’s account, The Light and the Glory, tells how the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock endured extreme hardship to pioneer a new land. Three long months at sea aboard The Mayflower and a brutal winter left them ragged, malnourished, and susceptible to disease. During the first four months of that year, nearly half of the Pilgrims had succumbed to illness and died under the harsh strain of their barren lifestyle.

The Pilgrims’ daily existence was a life-or-death battle to overcome constant hunger, sickness, and exposure to the elements. Crudely assembled houses made of mud daub were their only shelter from the icy New England weather. Because they were not yet knowledgeable about their new environment’s agriculture, planting gardens in the hostile conditions proved virtually fruitless. Every meal was portioned out meticulously. The death toll, a constant reminder of their fragility, rose steadily. At one point only five men were well enough to care for the sick.

Despite their tribulations, the Pilgrims thanked the Lord every day, petitioning Him for rehabilitation. One morning, during an ordinary Sunday worship service, the Lord sent tangible evidence that He had heard their prayers. Their church service was interrupted by an unexpected guest, an Algonquin Indian chief who assessed their hopeless situation and returned with a helper named Squanto. The Pilgrims, who had warred with Indians before and lived with a continuous fear of being attacked by them, were astonished by their new friends’ eagerness to provide much-needed assistance. Squanto, a Patuxet Indian who spoke perfect English, taught the Pilgrims how to hunt game, trap beavers, and plant Indian corn, a staple that would eventually save their lives.

When the harvest yielded more than the Pilgrims could eat, Governor William Bradford, their elected leader, declared a day of public thanksgiving. He invited the chief of a friendly neighboring Indian tribe to join in their tribute of Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims were excited to celebrate with their honored guest, but were completely shocked when he arrived with ninety other Indians.

Although God had provided abundantly, their food supply would not accommodate a group of this size, and they had no idea how to feed their visitors. Despite their quandary, all worries were soon dismissed. To their amazement and ever-increasing thankfulness, the Indians had brought with them five dressed deer and a dozen fat, wild turkeys. Over time they taught the women how to make pudding, maple syrup, and an Indian delicacy — roasted kernels of corn called popcorn.

But the Pilgrims’ trials were far from finished; their plentiful autumn was followed by a particularly treacherous winter. Unfortunately, the weather proved to be the least of their ailments. In November a ship called The Fortune dropped anchor in their harbor. Aboard the ship were thirty-five more colonists who had brought with them no provisions — no food, no extra clothing, no equipment for survival. Additionally, the oppression of the physical environment had become almost unbearable after a twelve-week drought dried up their crops and withered their spirits. The newcomers’ arrival had drained already inadequate food rations and there was no obvious resource for sustenance. At their lowest point, the Pilgrims were reduced to a daily ration of five kernels of corn apiece. In utter desperation they fell to their knees and prayed for eight hours without ceasing.

Again God heard their supplications; fourteen days of rain followed. A second Day of Thanksgiving was declared. The neighboring Indian chief was again their honored guest; he brought with him one hundred and twenty braves. The Pilgrims feasted on game and turkey as they had during their previous celebration, only this time one dish was different. The first course, served on an empty plate in front of each person, consisted of five kernels of corn, a gentle reminder of God’s faithful provision for them.

The Pilgrims’ humble response to their affliction is evidenced by their many writings which express deeply thankful hearts. We can learn countless lessons about sincere thankfulness from their example.

God commands us to live a life of gratitude and thanksgiving. “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thes. 5:16-18). By teaching our children to have grateful hearts, we can prepare them to respond gracefully to life’s trials.

The impact of thankfulness can extend to every area of life.

1) Being thankful motivates us to look for His purpose in our circumstances.

When we consider the Pilgrims’ story, we can see God’s hand directing their course all the way from England to the New World. We can see how He strengthened them and enabled them to settle a new land. If we’re perceptive and truly thankful we can see His guiding hand shaping our own lives in the same manner.

2) A grateful heart reminds us of our constant dependence upon God.

It changes our attitude toward life. When the Pilgrims thanked the Lord regardless of their destitution and entreated Him to supply their needs, they were able to respond positively to daunting situations and overcome great obstacles. When we thank Him for everything, big and small, we begin to realize that there is nothing we possess that we have not been given.

3) Gratitude increases our trust in God.

When the Pilgrims set sail for America, they couldn’t see the new land. They had to trust The Mayflower’s compass implicitly. Likewise, when they arrived at Plymouth Rock they had no foreknowledge of what would sustain their lives from then on. They had to trust God for everything from food and shelter to a secure future for their families. When we’re thankful for His constant provision, trusting Him with our lives becomes easier.

4) A thankful spirit teaches us to rejoice in every situation.

The apostle Paul, no stranger of tribulation, wrote, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Like the Pilgrims, Paul was refined by a burning fire that yielded a spirit of pure gold. We can be, as well.

5) Thankfulness transforms our anxiety into the peace of God.

The Pilgrims had myriad reasons to fear for their lives. Thanking God in plenty and in want enabled them to celebrate His faithfulness to them. When we focus our attention on God’s provision for us, we begin to see the world through a Christ-centered lens. We become acutely aware that He abides with us continually and we can rest in His peace.

Thanksgiving — the word only has meaning when we can attach it to behavior demonstrated in real life. The Pilgrims gave us their blessed holiday so we could remember how God answered their prayers with rich abundance. But we aren’t constrained to experiencing true thankfulness vicariously. When we meditate on God’s wondrous provision for our nation’s founders, we find it isn’t all that different from His blessings in our modern setting.

By focusing our attention on God and what He is teaching us throughout life, we can, like the Pilgrims, be thankful for even the most simple things.

– IN TOUCH® Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 IN TOUCH MINISTRIES®, ITM, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, USA, used with permission. All rights reserved.