Geertgen tot Sint Jans, “Birth of Jesus”
What do you do with God’s Manger? Treat it like our sheep did — or our goats? Or like God’s people of long ago, who grieved His heart?
An Isaiah verse has been sticking to my mind lately like a burr to wool, about the Master’s manger (Is 1:3). I think how ours (my favorite decoration we no longer use) became trash, firewood…
Cross and manger beside the driveway, spot-lit by night, warmed my heart as I looked out and pondered the great gift offered by these long-preordained means.
Then Husband moved them.
The lower sheep meadow would be idyllically appropriate, he thought, our woolies part of the scene.
Yes, true, but I couldn’t see it from the house anymore, and people driving past had to look fast or slow down or they’d miss it entirely.
The sheep, and goats (especially), gave him manger trouble, too. The sheep kept eating up its hay, and the goats…! Some jumped right into it, tromping and dirtying — and helping its destruction.
Really though, who could fault the sheep? A manger is, after all, a feeding station. With pasture gone winter dormant, they accepted its offered nourishment. This even pictured what the Good Shepherd’s sheep should do — what we leave off doing, like His “sheep” of Isaiah’s time.
“I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me,” God said, through Isaiah. “The ox knows his owner, and the donkey his master’s manger, but… my people do not consider.”
In those words lie multi-level meanings, hints at future as well as present sin: like rejecting the manger’s occupant in Herod’s time, like, in Isaiah’s, forsaking God’s nourishment that had brought them the astounding success He’d bestowed.
But the clear sin was rebellion.
I doubt they would have labeled themselves rebels against God. Just a little neglect here, a little drift there, a tad of compromise with the world and a pinch of different kinds of idolatry… Insidious sin is barely noticeable.
They still did the feast days, big time, still brought sacrifices and went through obligatory motions. But their feast days and sacrifices sickened Him, because their hearts — and obedience — toward Him had gone dead.
Justice, and mercy to the poor and helpless, were the heart of His Law, not piles of sacrifices and tons of foods to devour. Obedience to His word’s rich rightness meant more than any other offering (1 Sa 15:22).
As His people forsook His true food and obedience to it, God said they would be devoured (Is 1:20)!
What would He say to us, His people today?
Are we feeding at the manger of His word, or trampling and fouling it?
Do we recognize the help we have in Him, or do we turn everywhere else, as those folks turned to their idols and pagan neighbors?
Does His love overflow our hearts in mercy and justice toward people and honor toward Him?
I don’t know about you, but I recognize in my heart many hidden seeds of rebellion that can spring up all toxic, shockingly fast.
What to do?
Forgetting the to-do list for a moment, let’s be sure to “Return to the shepherd and Overseer of [our] souls” (1 Pt 2:25),
to feed our hearts at the manger of His word,
to live it out,
Because despite His people’s rebellion, the LORD is merciful. Along with rebuke Isaiah wrote promise, forgiveness, and hope—fulfilled in part at Christ’s first Advent, to be complete at His return.
COUNTING MORE REASONS TO PRAISE HIM
(From John 1)
- 557 – Because He, the Word, became flesh and dwelt among us.
- 558 – Because eye-witnesses saw His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, and testified about it.
- 559 – Because He was the true Light coming into the world.
- 560 – Because He, Maker of this world that didn’t know Him, did this, took on a form so small and lowly, to visit and redeem them.
- 561 – Because He came to His own people, even though He knew they would not receive Him.
- 562 – Because to as many as do receive Him and believe on His name He gives the right to become the children of God,
- 563 – Because He gives new birth, not of blood, or the will of the flesh or of man, but of God.
- 564 – Because in Him was Life
- 565 – Because that Life was the Light of the world
- 566 – Because that Light shines in the darkness
- 567 – Because the darkness cannot comprehend or overcome it.
- 568 – Because He was full of grace
- 569 – Because He was full of truth
- 570 – Because of His fullness can we all receive, and “grace for grace”
- 571 – Because though the Law was given by Moses, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ
- 572 – Because, although no one has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son has revealed/declared Him.
- 573 – Because Isaiah 40:3 was fulfilled in John the Baptist, who went before Christ, as the prophesied “voice in the wilderness,” crying, “Make straight the way of the LORD!”
- 574 – Because Christ was, and is, the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.
- 575 – Because He, Christ, fulfilled prophecy by being born in the line of Abraham
- 576 – Because He fulfilled prophecy by being born in the line of Isaac
- 577 – Because He fulfilled prophecy by being born in the line of Jacob
- 578 – Because He fulfilled prophecy by being born “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”
- 579 – Because He fulfilled prophecy by being born “the son of David.”
- 580 – Because He entered the world, pure, in a line of faulty, fleshly people, and stayed that way, “without sin” through His earthly life.
- 581 – Because He was conceived by Mary when she was still a virgin, fulfilling Isaiah 7:14’s prophecy.
- 582 – Because this was the work of the Holy Spirit.
- 583 – Because He was called Jesus (meaning Savior), because He would save His people from their sins
- 584 – Because He was born in Bethlehem, which fulfilled Micah 5:2’s prophecy.
- 585 – Because He would come forth from there to be the Ruler Who would Shepherd God’s people Israel.
- 586 – Because through His escape to Egypt with his earthly parents to flee Herod, and his later return, Hosea 11:1 was fulfilled.
- 587 – Because His dwelling then in Nazareth fulfilled Judges 13:5.
- 588 – Because the angel proclaimed even before His birth that His name would great
- 589 – Because the angel proclaimed that He would be called the Son of the Highest
- 590 – Because the angel proclaimed that the Lord God would give Him the throne of His earth-father David.
- 591 – Because the angel proclaimed that He will reign over the house of Jacob forever.
- 592 – Because of His kingdom there will be no end.
- 593 – Because His conception was impossible in the earthly sense, but occurred as a sign miracle performed by the Holy Spirit.
- 594 – Because with God nothing will be impossible
- 595 – Because John the Baptist leaped for joy in his mother’s womb at the approach of Christ in His mother’s womb.
- 596 – Because Mary proclaimed Him as her Savior
- 597 – Because He Who is mighty does great things for the lowly
- 598 – Because His name is Holy
- 599 – Because His mercy is on those who fear Him
- 600 – Because He scatters the proud in the imagination of their hearts
- 601 – Because He fills the hungry with good things.
- 602 – Because He sends the rich away empty
- 603 – Because He has helped His servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to Abraham, to His seed forever
- 604 -Because He is the blessed Lord God of Israel
- 605 – Because He has visited and redeemed His people
- 606 – Because He has raised up a strong horn of salvation in the house of His servant David
- 607 – Because He did as He spoke long before, since the world began, by the mouth of His holy prophets
- 608 – Because through Him His people would be saved from their enemies and from the hand of all who hate them.
- 609 – Because He performed the mercy promised to the fathers
- 610 – Because He remembered His holy covenant, the oath He swore to Abraham
- 611 – Because He came to grant that His people, delivered from the hand of their enemies, might be able to serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of their lives
- 612 – Because with Him, Christ, would come salvation by the remission of sins, through the tender mercies of our God.
- 613 – Because He, the Dayspring from on high has visited us
- 614 – Because He came to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death
- 615 – Because this (last item) fulfilled Isaiah 9:2
- 616 – Because He came to guide our feet into the way of peace