Isaiah 40:1-40, Comfort ye; Every Valley; And the Glory of the Lord (11/26/12)
Handel’s “The Messiah” –
Comfort Ye My People
Isaiah 40:1-40, Comfort ye; Every Valley; And the Glory of the Lord
Haggai 2:1-9, Malachi 3:1, Thus saith the Lord
Malachi 3:2-5, But who may abide; And He shall purify
Isaiah 7:10-16; Matthew 1:23, Behold, a virgin shall conceive
Isaiah 40:9-10, 60:1, O thou that tellest
More of Handel’s “The Messiah”
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I remember clearly the first time my father heard “The Messiah.” After a few moments of listening to the recording, he turned to me and said, quite seriously, “What language is it they’re singing in?”
Between the King James English, the four-part singing, and the orchestra, it can be difficult to hear the words of Handel’s oratorio. Between the buying, wrapping, mailing, and cooking, it can be difficult to understand the message of comfort that God sends to us at Christmas and every day of the year.
This Advent, thanks to a great suggestion from fellow-reader Terri L., we will work our way through the lyrics of the “Messiah” and their scriptural basis. We’ll read the King James Version so that we can hear the words being sung.
The first announcement is Isaiah the prophet’s message of comfort and urgency: The LORD is coming! Get the road ready!
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Haggai 2:1-9, Malachi 3:1, Thus saith the Lord (11/27/12)
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, is the same person as Zerubbabel son of Salathiel, ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:12-13 and Luke 3:27). Zerubbabel was descended from David in the direct male line, and if the Jews had been allowed to have a king after the Exile, he would likely have been it. As it was, he was governor of Judea under the Persians (see Ezra 4:3, for example).
After they got back to Judea, the Jews rebuilt the Temple, and most of the people were thrilled. Even so, the new Temple couldn’t hold a candle to Solomon’s Temple – they didn’t have the money or the skilled workers – and when the old people who knew the old Temple saw the replacement, they wept (Ezra 3:12).
God knew how the old people felt, but he said to them through the prophet Haggai, “This is my
house, and I will make it greater than it ever was before!” Do the best you can, and God will bless the result.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
Malachi 3:2-5, But who may abide; And He shall purify (11/28/12)
Changes will be made when the LORD suddenly appears in his temple. None of us will be able to stay on our feet. The sons of Levi – the priests and temple workers – were accustomed to make the burnt offerings, but Malachi says that when the LORD comes, they will be refined by fire. The LORD will mete out justice to the rest of us as well. As the writer of Hebrews said, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” (Hebrews 10:31).
But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire...: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, ... that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
Isaiah 7:10-16; Matthew 1:23, Behold, a virgin shall conceive (11/29/12)
One of my fervent and repeated prayers is, “Lord, please don’t give me a sign!” I’d probably ignore it or misunderstand it, and then I’d really
be in trouble!
Apparently King Ahaz felt the same way about signs. Jerusalem was under siege, and the people were afraid. God told Isaiah to go to Ahaz and say that God would give him a sign that things would be okay. Ahaz declined to ask for a sign, which made God a little exasperated with him. Isaiah said, “Fine! You won’t ask for a sign, but you’re going to get one anyway.” The siege was abandoned a short time later (2 Kings 16:5).
The sign given to Ahaz is also considered to be one of the Messianic prophecies. The thing about prophecy is that it often speaks both
to the future and
to the present.
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Isaiah 40:9-10, 60:1, O thou that tellest (11/30/12)
God with us.
When I went to my electronic King James Version, the words for today’s reading were not quite the same as in the Messiah. I also checked one of our own paper copies of the King James Version, published in 1865, with the same result. I looked at the Jewish Publication Society Bible, which turned out to be identical to The Messiah; that’s what we’re reading today.
The JPS and the KJV are identical in the vast majority of the text, so I am a little surprised – but not worried – by the difference. It’s worth knowing that Jewish and Christian scholars routinely work together to determine the best translation of the Old Testament. It’s also worth knowing that differences in translation do not affect our understanding of the good tidings!
O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah: 'Behold your God!'
More of Handel’s “The Messiah”
Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.
Comfort Ye My People
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth
He shall feed His flock
Thy rebuke hath broken His heart
Unto which of the angels
Copyright 2012 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.
The illustration showing the city of Jerusalen sitting atop Mr. Zion is from the Binns family Bible, now in the private collection of Regina Hunter.
Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the
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