Nathaniel was certain that Messiah's arrival would be a good thing for Israel. It was therefore incredulous to him that the blessing could emerge from a place with such a poor reputation. With the advantage of hindsight we see that the Savior's origin's are not so surprising. We could never guess what God would do; how God will act. His thoughts are not like ours. And just as well. They are much, much higher.
Israel was about to be driven into exile. Enemy nations believed they had the upper hand and were in control of events. They did not know that their ascendancy over Israel was being incorporated into a larger plan than theirs. God is greater than our personal misfortunes; greater than forces of international politics. To know God is to know that nothing purposeless ever happens. God is in control.
Heaven, imagined as a place beyond the stratosphere where disembodied people float blissfully, is nowhere taught in Scripture. Instead, the future God has in mind will be this world, redeemed and, along with its inhabitants, renewed and transformed. The futile tribal values of property and power will be replaced with creative ones that work to enjoy the good of the earth creatively and cooperatively.
Two prodigious realities are here mentioned. Sin, which beclouds and dominates life, explaining why we self-sabotage even our best efforts, accounting for our brokenness. Then, the Lamb--Jesus, the answer to our futility. Sin's hold on us is ruinous, but Christ is mightier and remedial. There is hope and a future for humans.
Many a politician begins his day in the sun by announcing that he will make things right in the world. Each in turn proves the falsity of this claim. John the Baptist was more useful by being more truthful. He came right out and said, 'I am not the Christ' (I am not God's agent to set the world to rights). All Christians and all Christian institutions do good service when they offer the same disclaimer.
'Justice', here, is mishpat, more accurately, 'judgment'; truthful differentiation between right and wrong, which prevents the evil of injustice. Sure evidence of knowing God is love of justice. Genuine faith is weighty with social consequence.
A frequent victim of racial profiling, and seen as spiritually impotent by the Jewish establishment, comes before Christ in adoration, gratitude, and readiness for service; sure signs of genuine religious experience. How often does it happen that a bona fide relationship with God is dramatically demonstrated, by individuals and groups in whom such things were thought to be out of bounds. There are no boundaries with God!
The prophet portrays refugees from the cities and towns of Judah, having fled for refuge within the walls of Jerusalem as their last bastion of hope against the marauding army of Sennacherib. Two figures of speech with a rich usage in Israel's story picture God as shepherd and king. Both metaphors imagine the Lord as leader and champion of his people; resonant images of Jesus who breaks through the impasse of sin and takes his people with him to victory.
Because we are the product of a personal God, to reflect the Creator's personality is the imperative of our existence. All thought and action occurs under an overarching 'oughtness.' And after having done right, what we should not do is think that God owes us something. Morality is never a 'deal' we make with God. It's just duty.
'Don't make a mess in your own back yard.' Most of us know someone who, not having followed that piece of folk-wisdom, has made their home unlivable. There is a permanent homeland for the human spirit--with God, in the sharing of his values. 'There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God.'