Excerpt from the Award-Winning Lexham Geographic Commentary

Each year, Christianity Today honors outstanding books most likely to shape evangelical life, thought, and culture.

The Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels, edited by Barry Beitzel, recently received this prestigious award for the category of Biblical Studies. The commentary delivers fresh insight by paying attention to an often overlooked component of the Gospel stories—their geographical setting.

Most houses (be they of a commoner or a king) had a guest–room or lodging place (katalyma) where a traveler could pause to eat or sleep for a period of time.

This excerpt explores—and challenges—the traditional understanding of the location of Jesus’ birth. [Read more…]

With Gladness in Their Eyes: The Joy of Angels at the Birth of Christ

Luke 2:14
It’s easy to imagine what Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, or the Magi were thinking and feeling when they encountered the baby Jesus for the first time. I can imagine the mix of excitement, nerves, and expectation as they wondered when God would reveal the details of his plan and what kind of man this child would grow to be. [Read more…]

The Names of God for the Needs of Our Hearts

Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah’s magnificent prophecy spans not only history, going from creation (e.g., 42:5) to eternity (e.g., 9:7), but also geography, with an interest ranging between God’s own people through all of humanity (e.v., 2:2). Containing both words of hope and horror, its key theme is God himself, who is referred to hundreds of times.”

Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary on the Old Testament

In the first chapter of Isaiah, God expresses his dissatisfaction with the sacrifices Israel offered (Isaiah 1:11–16).

On the outside, they are doing exactly as God asked: they sacrifice rams and bulls, fat and blood, lambs, goats, and incense. They honor the Sabbath. They have a system for remembering when to feast and celebrate what God has done (Isaiah 1:14).

But God says their sacrifices are meaningless.

“I have had enough . . . I do not delight . . . bring no more.” Quantity is not the issue. Quality is. And it’s not a matter of extravagance. Their elaborate prayers use their lips and their hands (Isaiah 1:15) and look great on the outside (Matthew 6:5), but there is no heart behind them.

Sinful hearts

Other religions made sacrifices to their gods because they believed they were feeding them. The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary says, “Popular Israelite religion frequently forgot that God was not actually fed through sacrifice and sought to manipulate him through such offerings.”

They forgot why they were making sacrifices. They thought they had to feed the God who created the world. But God wasn’t dependent on the Israelites and their sacrifices. They were dependent on him. As the Faithlife Study Bible says:

An increase in offerings is meaningless without a change in attitudes. The sacrifice fundamentally represented Israel’s relationship with Yahweh, by which Israelites acknowledge dependence on Him. There was no point in going through the motions if they’d abandoned that dependence—either through idolatry or pride in their self-sufficiency.

The sacrifices were meant to be an external symbol of an internal process: repentance (Isaiah 1:16–20). The FSB says “God calls for inward repentance after condemning the empty efforts of outward observance.” They were cleaning the outside of the cup, while filth festered on the inside (Luke 11:39).

The Names of God

The system God established for dealing with sins had been abused for too long. The death of innocent animals was not enough for guilty humans to see the error of their ways (Hebrews 10:4). The status quo wasn’t working. Isaiah called for change in the present, and pointed to a bigger change in the future (Hebrews 10:10).

Isaiah 9:6 introduces Israel to powerful names for a son who was yet to come. Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace.

The people of Israel didn’t crack open their New Testaments to John 3:16 and say, “Hey, that’s Jesus!” They looked to the current line of David for an immediate answer—someone who could live up to these prophetic titles.

The Faithlife Study Bible reminds us that “the prediction of a future ideal Davidic ruler point ultimately to the Messiah, but immediate hopes for Judah’s future would have been directed at the Davidic line, continued through Hezekiah.”

But there was a problem. Some of these titles could only be attributed to God. No man could measure up to names like “Mighty God”—that’s blasphemy (John 8:58–59). As he so often does, God had a different plan than man.

Mighty God

People can’t overcome sin by their own power. The sacrifices which were once acceptable to God had become useless buckets on a sinking ship. God needed to intervene, or the world would drown in sin.

No matter how mighty God made a man, man could never escape sin and death (Romans 3:23). Christ overcame both in his death and resurrection, making a way for man to overcome both through him and him alone.

Wonderful Counselor

People couldn’t find their own way out of sin, either. They had not the wisdom.

They needed a Wonderful Counselor, someone who could give them the wisdom they needed to truly repent (James 1:5, Hebrews 2:18). Christ not only gives us wisdom by the Spirit through the word, he is our wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Everlasting Father

With Abraham, Israel was entitled to an earthly inheritance, but then what? As goes the earth, so goes the inheritance.

But through their Everlasting Father, they had an eternal one to aspire to (Hebrews 9:15, Romans 8:16–17).

Prince of Peace

And to abolish the old sacrificial system which put a bandage on their sin, Israel needed the Prince of Peace to restore them to God perfectly and once-and-for-all (Ephesians 2:13–18, Philippians 4:6–7; Hebrews 10:1-18).

The Christmas season is a time to celebrate the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “For to us, a child is born, to us, a son is given.” Remember where that son came from (Galatians 4:4–5), and glorify God for providing the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. – Galatians 4:4–5


This is a revised version of a post that originally appeared in 2014. 

A Brief Biblical Theology of God’s Presence

Matthew 1:23

One of the most fascinating developments to follow through the Bible’s storyline is the concept of God dwelling with his people. God, the creator of all that exists, gradually reveals his desire to be present and active with those who belong to him. Tracing this progressive revelation is cause for great worship and wondrous hope. [Read more…]

Kuyper: Are You Keeping Watch over Your Flock?

Many of us reread the Christmas story every year with a sense of routine, or perhaps even staleness. It can be all too easy in our rereading to miss how the Christmas story challenges us in new ways.

In the following excerpt from Honey from the Rock, a brand-new book from Lexham Press, Kuyper invites us to put ourselves in the shepherds’ shoes. Instead of passing over their work as part of the background, Kuyper challenges us to learn from their watch over all that God entrusted to them. [Read more…]

Black Friday Deals End Tomorrow at 11:59 p.m.

The clock is running out to save up to 90% on Logos Black Friday deals! Scoop up books, courses, or other resources before the sale ends tomorrow at 11:59 p.m. (PST).

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Get 3 Books for under $3

There are only a few days left to get this month’s Free Book of the Month: New Covenant Commentary: 2 Timothy and Titus.

The first Thessalonian church was grieving over those who had died, enduring harsh persecution, and struggling with questions about the future. But according to author Aída Besançon Spencer, Paul offered more than wishful thinking or pie-in-the-sky comfort to the Thessalonian church. He offered the comfort and reassurance of hope in the Messiah Jesus. [Read more…]

Rise and Shine! Black Friday Is Here

You’ve given thanks, eaten turkey, and fallen asleep.

And now Black Friday is here to you greet you, with savings up to 90% on dozens of resources, including these highlights: [Read more…]

Logos Black Friday: Here’s What’s On Sale

With so many resources on sale, who can shop for just one day?

This year, Logos Black Friday is over a week long to give you plenty of time to browse and save.

Take up to 90% off dozens of resources, including these highlights: [Read more…]

5 Seminary-Level Courses to Listen to on Your Morning Commute

If you’ve been blessed enough to go to Bible school or seminary, you know the joy of prolonged seasons of structured theological learning.

And you probably miss them now that they’re over. If you had the time, you’d love to sit in on a class once again.

With Mobile Ed lectures in Faithlife Audio, you can. [Read more…]