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South Fellowship Church

Advent 2021

Advent Week 2 | Thursday

Where is our Priest?

‘and speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD : even he shall build the temple of the LORD ; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. ‘ Zechariah 6:12-13

This week we are exploring the implications of this passage. For this week, we are focused on the subject of Jesus as Priest. As with many prophecies, they have layers of meaning. Yes, Jesus fulfilled this text, but there is still meaning in it for us today. We live in the time between Christ’s first coming and his second coming. What does this ancient prophetic voice have to say to us?

Zechariah tells us that there is a ruler who will also be a priest for us. For most of us, kings and priests are not offices that we encounter in our lives. Even if they were, we may miss the unusual idea that a king could be a priest. In Israel, priests were one thing and kings were another; they had different roles. But this passage is not the only one to speak of a king-priest. Hebrews 7 teaches us that Jesus is both king and Priest. He rules and he functions as an ambassador between God and humanity. The question is, how is this prophecy still being fulfilled for us today?

Notice that Zechariah tells us that it is the Priest’s responsibility to build the temple. That is curious to me, and I don’t often think of a priest creating the place of worship. Yet, that idea reminds me of another text. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “I will build my church.” You see, Jesus is our Priest, and he is building US (the church) as the temple. Jesus is not absent as a priest-king; instead, he is actively building his church to be a place where both we and the world can encounter him.

In this season of Advent, we contemplate the darkness of the world, and we anticipate the coming light of Christ. Take a moment to reflect on the reality that you are the temple where light has come, is coming, and will come more and more. God is not far off; he is building in you and all of his church, a temple for his light. Ask him to shine in you!

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Advent Week 2 | Thursday2021-12-09T08:55:13-07:00

Advent Week 2 | Wednesday

Jesus is the branch of David and Priest of Go

“He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:2-6 NIV

“Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.” Zechariah 3:8-9 NIV

“Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.” Zechariah 6:12-13 NIV

What were the Jewish people looking for in a Messiah in the year of 30 AD? Messiah is the Hebrew word for the anointed one; it is translated as Christ in Greek. Many Jews hoped for a Davidic king who would overthrow their rulers – freeing Israel from Roman domination. Some looked for two Messiahs, a priest and a king who would work together as their leaders did in Zechariah’s time.

The Old Testament prophets used many descriptive terms when prophesying about the coming Messiah. Isaiah calls him a branch or shoot from David frequently, as Zechariah did. Jesus fulfilled this as his mother was from the line of David. But in Zechariah 6:12-13 the Messiah as priest is emphasized. “Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.”

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John do not seem to indicate that the Jewish people were looking for a Messiah priest. Yet, there are many prophecies that point to the Messiah as a priest. David talks of Messiah in Psalm 110:4, “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Genesis 14:18 tells us that Melchizedek was a king/priest in Salem (Jerusalem) in Abram’s day, and he knew and served God Almighty. A priest’s job is to intercede before God on the behalf of others.

The author of Hebrews 7:17 speaks of Jesus; “For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” He goes on to say, “but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to completely save those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them,” Hebrews 7:24. Zechariah had prophesied that the Messiah would, “remove the sin of this land in a single day,” Zechariah 3:9b. Jesus perfectly fulfills this prophecy – he is the priest who lives forever, his sacrifice offers atonement for all sin, and he is seated at the right hand of God, interceding on our behalf. Think on these things and give thanks to God.

By Grace Hunter

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Advent Week 2 | Wednesday2022-01-10T21:09:04-07:00

Advent Week 2 | Day 2 | Who is this priest?

THE PRIEST’S CROWN IN THE TEMPLE | Zechariah 6:11-12,13b, Isaiah 44:28, Jeremiah 29:10, Ezra 1:1, 4:23-24, 3:10-13, 5:1-2, and Zechariah 3:8 (NASB)

Also take silver and gold, make an ornate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, ‘The Lord of armies says this: “Behold, there is a Man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and He who will bear the majesty and sit and rule on His throne….Now the crown will become a reminder in the temple of the Lord. (Zechariah 6:11-12, 13b)

Later I will speculate on what Zechariah’s original audience might have envisioned when they heard the above words. But, to make it worthwhile, I’ve examined  key events and prophecies leading up to the above prophecy.

It is I who says of Cyrus ‘he will carry out all My desire.’

…And he says of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’

And of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid.’” (Isaiah 44:28 excerpt)

“For this is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.’” (Jeremiah 29:10)

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia (Ezra 1:1)

Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord…they sang, praising and giving thanks to the Lord…Yet many…who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice…while many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping…and the sound was heard far away. (Ezra 3:10-13 excerpt)

Then as soon as the copy of King Artaxerxes’ decree was read…they went in a hurry to Jerusalem to the Jews and stopped them by military force. Then work on the house of God in Jerusalem was discontinued…until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. (Ezra 4:23-24 excerpt)

When the prophets Haggai and Zechariah prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel then Zerubbabel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to rebuild the house of God which is in Jerusalem (Ezra 5:1-2 excerpt)

Now listen, Joshua, you high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you—indeed they are men who are a sign: for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch. (Zechariah 3:8)

Most of the above scripture references and historical information are contained in the book of Ezra. Ezra was a priest and scribe who accompanied the brave, pioneering 42,360 Jewish returnees to Jerusalem who intended to rebuild the Temple and secure the city after their 70 year Babylonian captivity.

In chapter 1, Ezra detailed the Persian king Cyrus’ edict to rebuild the Temple – an event prophesied both by Isaiah and Jeremiah before the first Temple was destroyed and before Cyrus was born. In Chapter 3 Ezra described the building of the Temple altar and laying its foundation along with the first sacrifices and celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. The highly emotional and very loud rejoicing and wailing that took place alarmed their neighbors who then brought a successful lawsuit and military injunction against them to prevent any further work on the Temple. The court case dragged on and resulted in a delay of 6 years as recorded in Ezra 4.

In chapter 5, Ezra named the key leaders who got the Temple work back on track rather than waiting for the final verdict. They were the two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, Zerubbabel, the Jewish governor, and Joshua, the high priest.This team inspired the returnees to complete the rest of theTemple in just 4 years.

Zechariah, a priest who received a multitude of messianic prophecies from God, also engaged in two prophetic encounters with Joshua, the high priest. In both of these incidents Zechariah named a future chosen one named “The Branch” who would build the Temple of the Lord.

It was clear Joshua was not a combination of High Priest and true King. His crowning stirred no expectation that Zechariah intended to crown a king in defiance of Persian law. This is especially clear with the words “Now the crown will become a reminder in the temple of the Lord.”

The returnees who listened to and watched Zechariah as he interacted with Joshua would have likely regarded these prophecies as hope for their coming Messiah/Priest/King (but would not expect it to be 500+ years) and further mystified by Zechariah’s reference to “The Branch” building the Temple since they had just finished building the Temple.

Are there prophecies that mystify you and make you hunger for immediate fulfillment? Thank God He still keeps surprising all of us with His unfathomable plans. 

by Kathleen Petersen

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Advent Week 2 | Day 2 | Who is this priest?2021-12-06T20:55:12-07:00

Time with your Shephard | Advent Week 1 | Friday

Prophetic words transcend time. Past, present, and future weave together in one grand narrative. Passages like Micah 5:2-5a transport us out of time and space for a moment to realize something greater is happening in the universe.

This week we’ve explored how the original audience found meaning and hope in this message, how the Israelites would have seen this prophecy being fulfilled, and how twenty-first century readers interpret the text in the rear-view mirror. Based on our vantage point in human history, we can see how Jesus came with shepherd-like qualities guiding his flock into truth and providing strength for them along the way.

Today, we invite you to take off your learner hat to simply sit with this passage – just you and Jesus. Read this passage in the New Living Translation. Read it slowly and take in every word. Notice how the words feel rather than analyzing what the words mean. Read it as many times as you need to let the words sink down from your head into your heart.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel,
whose origins are in the distant past,
will come from you on my behalf.

The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies
until the woman in labor gives birth.
Then at last his fellow countrymen
will return from exile to their own land.

And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
Then his people will live there undisturbed,
for he will be highly honored around the world.

And he will be the source of peace.

After soaking with the words for a time, write down a prayer to Jesus based on what you felt in this passage. Tell him what you noticed and ask him if there’s anything more he wants to say to you today.

By Yvonne Biel

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Time with your Shephard | Advent Week 1 | Friday2021-12-01T15:37:59-07:00

Who and where is our shepherd? | Advent Week 1 | Thursday

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times

Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.

He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth . And he will be our peace.” Micah 5;2-5a

Certain words, including names of creatures and people’s occupations have carried a lot of baggage with them over the centuries. Two of these are sheep and shepherd.
No one I know likes to be called, “a sheep”, because the common perspective is that sheep are weak, stupid, fearful, needy, have a herd mentality and are inlined to scatter if frightened or attacked. “Shepherd” as a description of, “He who will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord his God,” was hardly a compliment in the days in which Micah was a prophet.

Perhaps it will help to know that,“the one who will come,” will be glad to do the ancient, humble work of a shepherd; caring for the sheep, providing feed and shelter, cool, clear water, protecting the safety of the whole flock, ensuring the health of each individual sheep. He’ll be tender with the sick and young ones and watch for those who stray or are orphaned so that they won’t be abandoned.

Sheep, too, are a lot smarter than they have been recognized as being. They have survived being domesticated for thousands of years by sometimes good and sometimes uncaring owners. The “flocking” instinct, so often denigrated, is a community survival-based way they have learned to live, ensuring enhanced comfort as they are in a group, because there is much greater strength in numbers than in going it alone. It only takes a newborn lamb minutes to be up seeking its own food source and it knows to stay near it’s mother in order to be self-sustaining.

Shepherds in biblical times walked in front of their sheep, rather than driving them, when moving them from pasture to pasture, always keeping an eye out for danger in front and checking behind to make sure none get lost or left behind. They had individual ways of calling their sheep so the sheep knew which shepherd to follow.

Read Psalm 23. David was the last of the shepherd kings and he knew what he was talking about when he wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd!” Pray and ask the Lord to show you ways he is caring for you during this Advent season. Thank him for each one he shows you.

by Carolyn Schmitt

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Who and where is our shepherd? | Advent Week 1 | Thursday2021-12-01T15:38:23-07:00

Jesus as Shepherd | Micah 5:2-5

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

The prophecy we are focused on this week is found in Micah 5:2-5. I encourage you to read it each day for reflection and reference. These prophetic texts are multidimensional; they carry meaning through the ages. Today, we are focused on the significance of this prophecy for God’s people during Jesus’ life. After all, Jesus is one of the most significant fulfillments of this prophecy. In other words, we are asking the question, “how would this passage have been understood in the days of Jesus?”

When an Israelite read a passage that mentioned a ruler coming from Bethlehem, it would have immediately given them an idea. They would have thought of King David. David was from Bethlehem, and he was their history’s greatest king. David had military victories that brought peace; he had been a shepherd, representing the good old days. Then Jesus is born, and he fulfills the prophecy by showing up to this insignificant town of Bethlehem, but the rest of the expectations are shattered. In John 10:11 Jesus says, “I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” This self-sacrificing Shepherd was not what they had in mind. They wanted the Goliath-killing Shepherd. Jesus’ ministry and death would not have been a part of how they expected the prophecy to be fulfilled.

What do we do when the answers to our prayers show up in a form that we don’t expect? Advent is an opportunity to wrestle with our expectations and to learn to lay them down at the more beautiful, albeit unexpected, answers to our desires.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Jesus as Shepherd | Micah 5:2-52021-11-30T12:36:39-07:00

SINGING TRUTH TO POWER | Micah 5:2-4 (J.B. Phillips)

But you, Bethlehem Ephratah,
Almost too small to be counted
Among the ranks of Judah,
From you will come forth for me
The future Ruler of Israel!
He springs from a line of ancient times,
From the days of long ago.
Therefore, the Lord leaves them to themselves,
Until the time when she who is in labour
Has given birth to her child.
Until the rest of his brethren have returned
With the children of Israel.

Then he shall stand as their Shepherd
Firm in the strength of the Lord,
In the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall come in and possess the land,
Because he will be great
To the very ends of the earth.

Micah 5:2-4 (J.B. Phillips)

The prophet Micah was a contemporary of two other Old Testament prophets, Isaiah and Hosea. The messages of all three were delivered in a time of increasingly prosperous urbanization in both Judah and the Northern Kingdom. Isaiah interacted with the priestly and ruling classes in urban Jerusalem while Micah remained in a farming community 25+ miles southeast of the city.

Envision a relatively unsophisticated Micah, like King David, playing a lyre and singing the messages he received from God. Poetry set to song engages both heart and mind. For example, this snippet from “The Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel, is embedded in the memory of many who first heard it almost 58 years ago.

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains

Imagine trying to translate those lyrics into ancient Hebrew. Likewise, any translation of ancient Hebrew poetry into contemporary English will lack some of its original impact. Also, the music from any instrument Micah might have used wouldn’t have been recorded. So it’s impossible to assess the original effect on Micah’s audience of rural people, powerful rulers, and their hired prophets. However, the following words must have echoed true to those who were viewed as insignificant by wealthy, urban elitists:

But you, Bethlehem Ephratah,
Almost too small to be counted
Among the ranks of Judah

Micah also delivered God’s promise that a humble, shepherd leader in the tradition of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David would rectify the disenfranchisement of those country farmers and widows who were being stripped of their ancestral lands by the powerful, corrupt leaders of that day.

Then he shall stand as their Shepherd
Firm in the strength of the Lord,
In the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall come in and possess the land,

Further, Micah’s poetry gave his audience hope that one day this Shepherd/King would be recognized not only by Judah and Israel, but throughout the earth.

Because he will be great
To the very ends of the earth.

The musically poetic intensity of Micah’s words likely encouraged his hearers to memorize and sing them as they looked forward to their fulfillment.
Do you have a favorite, traditional song about our Shepherd King’s birth? Encourage your heart by singing it sometime today.

By Kathleen Petersen

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SINGING TRUTH TO POWER | Micah 5:2-4 (J.B. Phillips)2021-11-30T08:46:22-07:00

Advent 2021 | Week 1

Before Christmas arrives, we prepare our hearts through a tradition called Advent. Some use Advent calendars to build anticipation. Others use Advent wreaths as they prepare for celebrating Jesus’ first arrival. Here at South, we light candles and read Scriptures. We believe building in practices of anticipation are important for our formation because it creates space for greater joy in our hearts on celebration day!

On Sundays, we’ll be studying rich Old Testament prophecy pointing to Jesus’ first coming while alluding to his second coming. You can use Monday’s guide to connect with Jesus personally, discuss with a friend, or stimulate conversation over a family meal. Let Jesus speak as you become present to him through this process!

  1. Start Here … How do your ideal expectations for the Christmas holiday compare to your typical reality on Christmas day?
  2. Light + Listen … Light one candle and read Micah 5:2-5a
  3. Get Honest … Compare your experience with Jesus to the character in the text. In what ways do you experience Jesus as this passage describes? In what ways would you like Jesus to do more of what this passage describes?
  4. Change Mind … Take a moment of silence asking Jesus what he wants you to know about Christmas this year.
  5. Walk Anew … Ask Jesus what he would like you to do with what he’s spoken to you today.

Prophecy can be a tricky genre to read and understand. To learn more about how to read the prophets, watch Bible Project’s informational video on YouTube and reflect on the following questions.

Watch The Video

  • What do you think of when you hear the word “prophet”?
  • What are three themes in the prophetic books?
  • What does the Bible Project suggest is the twin message of the prophets?

By Yvonne Biel

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Advent 2021 | Week 12021-11-28T20:58:58-07:00
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