December 14, 2020

The Prophecies

Isaiah 9:6-7; 53:1-12

Before you were born, before the world was made, God had a plan.

He would send His Son, Jesus, to save His people and become the treasure of their hearts, but it was going to be a really long time before He came. God looked at His Israelites that He specially loved. When Jesus arrived, He didn’t want them to be surprised or confused. God wanted them to be ready, but how?

Some people had a special job God had given them. They were called prophets. Now prophets had to have open and ready ears tuned into God’s words. Then they used their mouths and spoke whatever God had told them, like they were God’s mouth speaking to the world. Often, God would tell His prophets what would happen in the future, and they would tell everyone, “Hey! God said get ready for this!” Of all the secrets God would whisper to His prophets, He most loved giving them hints about what His Son would be like.

Isaiah was one of God’s prophets, and he got to hear God talk about Jesus a lot! Isaiah would shout, “Get ready! A Son is going to come. He won’t be a very handsome
guy. His life won’t look very pretty, either. There will be a lot of pain for Him, and in the end, a very sad, but special, death.” God was giving the Israelites all these clues to lead them to His treasure. If they had these prophecies with them, then they could be on the lookout. When Jesus arrived, they could look at their checklist: is He going to His death quietly? Yes. Check. Is He being pierced on the cross? Yes. Check. When all the clues matched up with the person, they would know —it’s Him! The Rescuer is here! But sadly no one paid attention to the hints God gave. When Jesus came, they didn’t know. When He did everything God said He would, they didn’t realize.

When Jesus came to earth, He reminded people of the prophecies. He said, “I am the One that Isaiah was telling everyone about. Do you remember? He said to get ready for me.” But even when He pointed to each clue, people ignored Him. Their eyes were blind to the treasure that God had given them. God was showing us that even if we have every single clue, even if we know all the prophecies backward and forward, without His help we could never see that they all point to Jesus. We would be blind, we would be deaf, and our hearts would not treasure Jesus, but God knew that. Because He knew that, He whispered other promises to other prophets. He said He would give His children new hearts to believe, new eyes to see, and new ears to hear. God told us what the future would hold —all of His children treasuring Jesus as the One who was promised to come.

Discussion Questions

Why is it important to us that the prophecies God gave through His prophets came true?

Any time you share the good news about Jesus—that He was the Son of God, that He came to earth and died on the cross to pay for our sins, and rose three days later—why is it important to pray?

This Advent devotional resource was produced by The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The original resource can be found here.


December 12, 2020

The Shepherd King

1 Samuel 16

Samuel’s heart was sad as he walked toward Bethlehem.

He had hoped that Saul would be a good king, but Saul’s actions quickly showed that his heart didn’t trust God. Without faith he could never lead Israel well, so Samuel was going to find the new king God had chosen. A man named Jesse lived in Bethlehem. One of his sons would soon wear the crown. Samuel went to meet them, but when they arrived he nearly passed out! Jesse had so many sons! How would he know the right one?

Samuel examined them with his eyes. King Saul had been really tall and super strong. Samuel searched for a son that was built like an ox. Ah, Eliab. The oldest. Easy peasy, thought Samuel. That’s what kings look like! God interrupted Samuel’s thoughts. “I’m not like you, Samuel. I don’t look at the outside of a person. I look where no one else can, the heart. Eliab doesn’t have the right heart. I want My king to have a heart that trusts me.” So Jesse’s other sons came forward, one by one, to be inspected by Samuel. He tried to look past their handsome hair and strong shoulders and peer into their hearts, but Samuel didn’t have those kind of eyes. Seven times, he heard God whisper, “That’s not him.” Finally, Jesse sent to the fields for his youngest son, David, who was tending the smelly sheep. David was a small boy with pink cheeks and bright eyes, and when he arrived, the excited voice of God told Samuel, “This is him! What a beautiful heart he has!” Samuel tilted his head and eyed the boy, trying to imagine a crown on his head and a sword in his hand. All he saw was a shepherd boy in need of a bath. Still, he trusted that when God looked at David, He saw a king. Samuel lifted his horn, spilled oil on David’s head, and said, “You will be king of Israel.”

When Jesus came to this world, no earthly eyes could look at him and see a king. People’s eyes could only see what he looked like on the outside, which wasn’t anything special. In His human body, He was the poor son of a carpenter. His clothes weren’t clean, He wasn’t tall, He wasn’t especially handsome, but when God looked at Jesus, He saw His heart, the heart of His precious Son that trusted completely in His Father. When God looked at Jesus, He saw His perfect King, a King that would rule for the good of all His people. And when God gives us faith to believe all He has promised, the way we see Jesus changes. We no longer see a sad, helpless man nailed to a cross. We see Jesus as He truly is, our beautiful and mighty King of all kings.

Discussion Questions

If we make decisions about a person based on what our eyes can see, will that always tell us the truth about them?

Why didn’t God make Jesus look like a king so that everyone would know who He was?

This Advent devotional resource was produced by The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The original resource can be found here.

December 11, 2020

The Wall

Joshua 3, 6

Jericho towered over the land with its tall walls, but sat quiet as a mouse.

News had come that God had walled up the waters of the Jordan River so the Israelites could cross, just like the Red Sea! Inside Jericho, fear melted the hearts of those living there like hot wax on a candle. Outside the walls, Israel waited for words from their wise leader, Joshua. Joshua was strong and very courageous. It wasn’t because he had bulging muscles or never quivered with fear. It was because his heart overflowed with trust in God. If God said He loved Israel, Joshua knew they were loved. If God promised them a land, then Joshua knew it would be theirs.

But now, as Joshua craned his neck to look at Jericho’s walls, his eyebrows knitted together and he wondered, What are we gonna do? God’s voice spoke into his thoughts, “I have given you Jericho.” Joshua’s eyebrows shot up and his eyes widened. He’s already given it to us! But wait, why are we still out here? God continued, “Give seven of the priests loud horns. March behind them around Jericho, once a day for six days. And no talking!” Joshua scrunched his eyebrows and squinted his eyes at these odd instructions. No spears? No war cries? And God wasn’t finished yet. “On day seven, march around the city seven times. After the last lap, tell the priests to sound those horns to the skies! Tell everyone to shout until their breath runs out! Those walls will crumble in a pile at your feet! Jericho is yours.” Though this battle plan was pretty strange, Joshua had already seen God do crazy things. He had watched God rip open the Red Sea. Joshua had munched on mysterious manna that floated down from Heaven. He drank crisp, cool water that gushed from a rock. Joshua reassured himself in his heart, God loves us. Everything He does is best. Joshua’s big faith went to work doing all God had said. Sure enough, seven days later, Jericho was theirs.

A lot of God’s plans seem odd: Passover, the Red Sea, Jericho. His plans ask people to trust that He is good and does what is best. His biggest and most important plan was the strangest of all. To rescue His people, Jesus would leave Heaven, putting His crown away for a short time, and become like us. He was God, but would cover Himself with skin and put on our weaknesses, because only then could He die in our place. God become man? God die on a cross? How crazy is that? This plan couldn’t be carried out by Moses or Joshua. The One who would do this would need the biggest, strongest, most perfect faith of all. He would have to trust in God’s love more than any person ever had. He would have to believe God’s way was best more than any of us ever could. Only Jesus could carry out the greatest plan in all the world.

Discussion Questions

How can we tell that Joshua trusted God’s plan to conquer Jericho?

How do we know that Jesus always trusted God perfectly?

What are some things that we could look for in our lives to show us that we are trusting God in our hearts?

This Advent devotional resource was produced by The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The original resource can be found here.

December 10, 2020

The Ten Commandments

Exodus 20:1-21

Back in Egypt, the Israelites always had to listen to the words that Pharaoh said.

“Make those bricks!” “Build that wall!” “Feed those animals!” Day in, day out. Whatever Pharaoh said, they did. His words made their lives hard and unhappy. Then Moses came and said that God wanted them to be free so they could worship Him. Worship? Hmmmm. They only knew slavery. What would worship look like? It had been months since the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. Life was rough. Arguments arose over which sheep was whose. Bellies grumbled for meat. Moses couldn’t grant all their wishes. God had said He wanted His people to go free

so they could worship Him —but was this what He meant? Surely not! They reached the rocky base of Mount Sinai and watched Moses climb to the cloud-covered top and wondered what secrets God would share way up there.

The Israelites stared at the two weighty stone tablets that Moses had lugged down the mountain. Carved into each of them were ten important rules, or “commandments.” As Moses read them aloud, the people thought, These seem like good rules to live by! Not killing or stealing from each other. Being respectful to mommies and daddies and taking a nice rest once a week. Moses banged his staff on the ground to get their attention.

“God loves us, so He gave us these rules! He rescued us out of our terrible slavery in Egypt. This is how we can worship Him! We can love Him by obeying what He says

is best!” God had been waiting until now to explain worship. He hadn’t come to Egypt and whispered in their ears, “Obey, obey and I’ll come whisk you away. Pharaoh will be

no more.” Instead, God had made the river bleed and the locusts swarm and He had torn open the sea. In mighty and miraculous ways, God had wrapped His strong hand around His people and plucked them out of Egypt. His great love for His people could not be questioned, and now that His great rescue was complete, He shared all the ways to obey. Freedom first. Obedience after.

This is what our story looks like. God didn’t come to us while we were still slaves to sin and say, “Do this! Do that! If you obey, then I’ll set you free!” Instead, while we were slaves to sin, He sent Jesus to save us. God made His Son bleed, let His enemies swarm, and then tore Him apart on the cross and raised Him back to life. With this mighty work, He set our hearts free and then He came to us and said, “Now, let me show you what it looks like to worship me.” Obeying God isn’t something we have to do so that God will save us. Obeying God is something we get to do because He saved us.

Discussion Questions

Think about what it was like to serve Pharaoh in Egypt. Are there any ways that it was the same as serving God? Are there any ways that it was different from serving God?

Jesus tells His followers, “If you love me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15 ESV). Why do you think He said this?

This Advent devotional resource was produced by The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The original resource can be found here.