In the Old Testament, you knew everything was cool between you and the Lord if you were called just. A just man was a happy man studying God’s word day in day out. Such was the testimony of the legal dad of Jesus, Joseph. As one pastor put it, “Joseph lived the law as the Gospel.”
Someone who is deep in Scripture knows a thing or two about discernment. Joseph knew the difference between his spirit and His Spirit. This is more than interesting because Joseph lived during the time when God had given up on the Jews. As a man of Scripture, had Joseph ever thought about Isaiah 7:14 refer to his life?
The original recipient of that prophecy, King AHAZ, was the exact opposite of Joseph. Instead of embracing Isaiah’s prophetic invitation, he brushed it off as a cold and calculating politician. Even though Isaiah instructs King AHAZ not to fear, his faith is in the here and now. In contrast, Joseph awakens from his prophetic dream, fully armed with the awareness of a new day for the people of God because the Immanuel of Isaiah’s prophecy will soon be with him.
As children of the new covenant, the followers of Immanuel are referred to as believers.
We believe in the impossible and yet the historical reality of Jesus’ virgin birth. Like Joseph, we drink from the same river of life hearing God’s voice even though God may have given up on His people. We seek to remain undefiled seeking to enter the story of salvation as we awake from our sleep.
Unlike Jesus’ legal dad, but like Jesus, we are recipients of the gifts of the spirit. Because we are members of Christ’s body, we share in His spirit and should insert our names into Isaiah’s (cf. Isaiah 11) list of gifts:
“The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon _________:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and __________delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall ______ judge,
nor by hearsay shall ______ decide,
but ________ shall judge the poor with justice.”
The purpose of Advent is to sharpen our spiritual senses. Am I wise when it comes to the “times”? Or am I like the Pharisees who understand “the times” (i.e. the New York Times) but fail to discern the times in God’s prophetic plan? Fleming Rutledge rightly states:
Reading the signs of the times is one of the most important of all the gifts given to the church. How often we have failed! We have remained silent when we should have spoken; we have retreated into our churches when we should have acted; we have mistaken a worldly cause for the cause of God. We asked earlier concerning the relationship of the gospel to the “world” that is so often referred to negatively in the New Testament. The nature of apocalyptic transvision is to perceive where in the world the activity of God can be discerned.” (Rutledge, Fleming. Advent . Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.”