From the NAB: Advent Devotionals Wk. 1

From the NAB: Advent Devotionals Wk. 1

December 9, 2019

The North American Baptist Conference is publishing a devotional for each day of this Advent season.  We are pleased to share the devotionals from this past week.  Please visit the Conference website for additional details by visiting www.nabconference.org/articles
Originally published by the North American Baptist Conference. 
 

Introduction
From the beginning of Genesis to the end of John’s revelation, the names used to describe, worship, or talk about God are varied, but each of them is a window into the different characteristics and facets of His person.  Advent is a celebration of the arrival of the Messiah, who, against all expectations, was born of a virgin from a small town in Judea. Beginning December 1 and running through Christmas Day, we will be sharing short devotionals that examine the different names and titles that God has taken for Himself throughout Scripture.
 

Advent Day 1 (12/1/19): Creator
by Michael Benson

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. (Genesis 1:1–2 NLT)

The beginning of every story is important because it sets the tone for everything that follows. The story of the birth of Jesus—and His life and eventual death, resurrection, and ascension—is firmly rooted in the story of Israel, which begins with the story of creation. Genesis 1 tells of the creation of the world, and the animals, plants, and people that populate it, but the central character throughout the creation story is God as Creator.
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Advent Day 2 (12/2/19): Elohim
by Michael Benson

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the LORD God among the trees. Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:8–9 NLT)

In the first chapter of Genesis, God is referred to with only the generic title of Elohim, which conveys authority and might. Beginning in Genesis 2:4, right when the text transitions to a more detailed, intimate look at the work God put into this world and into Adam and Eve, the name Elohim is coupled with the name YHWH. In describing the relationship between the two, Dr. Mark D. Futato, Old Testament professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, writes, “YHWH Elohim . . . means that YHWH, the personal God who rules over Israel, is at one and the same time the universal God who rules over all.” The story of Genesis—and ultimately Israel, Jesus, and all who are called children of God—is not the story of a god; it is the story of YHWH, who would become known as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. At His core, YHWH is relational. 
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Advent Day 3 (12/3/19): I AM
by Michael Benson

God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.
This is my eternal name,
my name to remember for all generations.” (Exodus 3:14–15 NLT)

When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush to commission him to be the Lord’s servant sent to free the Israelites, Moses was not very willing to go, so he questioned God’s wisdom in choosing him. When God addressed this concern by telling Moses he would not be alone, Moses changed tactics by asking who he should claim sent him. In turn, God tells Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” There is a lot that can be unpacked from this interaction and God’s response to Moses, but one of the ways God’s answer has been interpreted throughout the years is as a proclamation that God is self-sustaining and does not need to depend upon anyone else. Even so, He chose to use Moses as His representative before Pharaoh and the Israelites, just as God chose Mary to be the mother of the Messiah.
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Advent Day 4 (12/4/19): El Shaddai
by Michael Benson

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.”

At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations!” (Genesis 17:1–4 NLT)

Grafting is a horticultural method wherein the branch from one tree, often fruit-bearing, is removed from its original tree and attached to the branches and root system of another tree. There are a few reasons this is done, but one of the most prominent is to transplant a fruit-bearing branch to a tree with a hardier root system, thereby increasing its yield or even its chances of survival. This also allows for some interesting creations, such as the so-called fruit salad trees, where a variety of fruits from the same family, such as citrus or stone fruit, all grow on the same tree.
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Advent Day 5 (12/5/19): El Elyon
by Michael Benson

This is the message Balaam delivered:

“This is the message of Balaam son of Beor,
the message of the man whose eyes see clearly,
the message of one who hears the words of God,
who has knowledge from the Most High,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
who bows down with eyes wide open:
I see him, but not here and now.
I perceive him, but far in the distant future.
A star will rise from Jacob;
a scepter will emerge from Israel.
It will crush the heads of Moab’s people,
cracking the skulls of the people of Sheth. (Numbers 24:15–17 NLT)

When Balaam blesses the Israelites—as prompted by the Lord, superseding his orders from King Balak of Moab to curse them—he refers to God as “Most High,” a name that signifies God’s authority over all things. This means He holds authority not simply over man but also over all powers and principalities. Though men may build idols and establish thrones for their gods, or attempt to take on that role for themselves, God is still the primary authority and power over all. This truth is woven into the preamble to the blessing Balaam invokes over Israel.
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Advent Day 6 (12/6/19): Ancient of Days
by Michael Benson

I watched as thrones were put in place
and the Ancient One sat down to judge.
His clothing was as white as snow,
his hair like purest wool.
He sat on a fiery throne
with wheels of blazing fire,
and a river of fire was pouring out,
flowing from his presence.
Millions of angels ministered to him;
many millions stood to attend him.
Then the court began its session,
and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:9–10 NLT)

In Daniel’s vision, the Ancient One is clothed in white, which signifies His righteousness, and His hair being as white as the coat of a pure lamb illustrates His wisdom. Throughout the Bible, fire is often used as a symbol of God’s holiness and presence, but here it is used as a symbol of something else, judgement. In Knowing God, J. I. Packer writes, “The Bible leaves us in no doubt that God loves righteousness and hates iniquity, and that the ideal of a judge wholly identified with what is good and right is perfectly fulfilled in him.” The image of God as the Ancient One, or Ancient of Days, is used to illustrate His perfect judgement over all creation. As the one who established the heavens and the earth and set them in motion, He is the only one able to sit on the throne that serves as the judgement seat over this world.
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Advent Day 7: Lord of Hosts
by Michael Benson

She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” (1 Samuel 1:10–11 ESV)

The Hebrew word translated here as “host” is sometimes translated as “army,” though in other contexts it can be translated as “everything.” For example, Genesis 2:1—“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them”—is sometimes translated as “. . . and everything in them.” According to Eitan Bar, the director of Media & Evangelism/Apologetics at One for Israel, one understanding of Genesis 2:1 is “that all of the atoms, all of the molecules, the vast array of them, were working together . . . all assembled and acting towards a purpose. Like an army.” Basically, to refer to God as the Lord of Hosts is to ascribe to Him all authority over every piece of creation, like a general over an army.

When Hannah prays her vow to the Lord of hosts in 1 Samuel, she is asking the God who made everything out of nothing to create a new life within her barren womb, which He does. After her son, Samuel, is born and she leaves him at the temple, Hannah breaks out in worship through a prayer that speaks of God exalting the humble.
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