The Sky Is Red

Matthew 16:1-3 – And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

2013-12-27 - The Sky Is Red (IMG_1668)Sunset over Caesar Creek Lake from the Fifty Springs Picnic Area, Caesar Creek State Park, Waynesville, Ohio.

“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in the morning, sailor take warning.”  Perhaps you have heard this saying, or some variation thereof?  Obviously this little weather forecasting adage was well known even in Jesus’ day.  By the way, there actually is a scientific explanation behind this saying; and, it is a reasonably useful indicator of the weather coming your way.

What was not quite so obvious to the Pharisees and Sadducees, though, was that the long expected Messiah had already come and that he was, in fact, the very one they were presently challenging.  Certainly a part of their problem was that they expected a Messiah who was an earthly king, not the humble son of a carpenter, the babe born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger.  Even though, by this time in his earthly ministry, Jesus had already performed numerous signs and miracles, the Pharisees and Sadducees were seeking something more spectacular, or at least something that was more suited to their own expectations.

When we take things to God in prayer we need to make sure our hearts are in the right place.  God does answer prayers, just not always in the way we desire, nor with the timing that we expect.  Rather than approaching him with selfish motives, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, we would do well to recall these words from Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

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© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2013.


The Bear Shall Graze

Isaiah 11:6-76 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

2013-12-09 - The Bear Shall Graze (IMG_8271)Grizzly bear along the trail to Iceberg Lake.  Glacier National Park, Montana.

(Not my best photography, I’ll admit, but when you are thirty yards from a grizzly bear in the wild, you tend to forget about swapping lenses and adjusting camera settings)

Today’s passage from Isaiah sounds rather absurd to anyone who has hiked in grizzly country, even to those who have not, for that matter.  I suspect that a fear of large predators keeps many people from venturing very far into the wilderness of places like Glacier National Park.  This fear is not totally irrational, just read some of the precautions that hikers and backcountry campers are told to follow.

As beautiful as God’s creation and creatures are, most people understand that there are risks in the outdoors.  And, whether or not a person is aware of the Judeo-Christian concept of the fall, I think everyone will at least acknowledge there are dangers, suffering, and even death in our world.  We live in a fallen world, where everything is corrupted by sin.  As Romans 8:22 tells us, “we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

Faced with an understanding of the effects of the fall, the scenario described by Isaiah seems strange to us in two ways.  First, there is the very unusual behavior of the animals, not something you typically see on nature programs.  And, second there is this seemingly odd notion that “a little child shall lead them.”  Even for Christians it all sounds rather foreign, because we, too, know well the realities of life here on earth.  But, as Christians we are blessed to know who this little child is.  It is the same child, the predicted Messiah, written about in yesterday’s passage from Isaiah 9.

It is the Messiah whose coming we celebrate on Christmas, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It is only through his birth, perfect life, and undeserved death on the cross that these impossible sounding things become possible. It is only through his innocent blood shed on the cross that we will some-day be able to experience what we read about in Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

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© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2013.

For to Us a Child is Born

2nd Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 9:6-7 – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

2013-12-08 - For to Us a Child is Born (IMG_7069)Anticipating the sunrise on a cold March morning in the hills of eastern Ohio.  Pathfinder School property, near Jackson, Ohio.

If you have ever camped out in cold weather you know a little something about anticipation.  The dark hours of early morning, before even the faintest rays of sunshine begin to grace the eastern sky, seem endless.  There is certainly some trepidation knowing that you have to climb out of a warm sleeping bag into the freezing morning air.  But, there is also excitement for those good things you know await you, stoking the smoldering embers of last night’s fire back to a blaze by which to warm yourself, that first steaming cup of coffee, and, perhaps, a hot cinnamon roll baked in a Dutch oven over the coals.

Those in Isaiah’s time knew a lot about anticipation.  In fact, it would be many generations before the promised Messiah arrived.  Fortunately for us, we have the advantage of knowing how the story of the Messiah unfolds.  Advent is a time of waiting for Christmas, that day we have set aside to celebrate the birth of Christ.  But, as Christians, our real anticipation is for the coming of God’s eternal kingdom, that time when we can celebrate the “marriage supper of the lamb” (Revelation 19:9) with our Lord and Savior in heaven.  If a warm campfire, a steaming cup of coffee, and a hot cinnamon roll on a cold morning sound good, try to imagine what awaits us in heaven!

Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2013.