Aftermath, Herod- Evil Incarnate

This portion of the Christmas Story is not very pleasant. It shows how evil, greed, power and the thirst for absolute power can consume a person. It shows how selfish desires can cause irreparable damage to those around us. Matthew 2:16-18 tells of Herod’s reaction and subsequent actions when he heard that the Magi had not returned to tell him about the child born ‘king of the Jews’.

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. 17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A cry was heard in Ramah—weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children,    refusing to be comforted,    for they are dead.”

Herod was an evil, self-centered, tyrannical dictator who wanted no one else to come between him and his reign. He saw the child who would be king as a personal threat to his power and throne. God protected Jesus and his family by sending them to Egypt to escape the reaches of Herod and the Magi He sent home by another route after appearing to them in a dream. There was no escaping the evil Herod showed by killing all the male babies under 2 in Bethlehem. The anguish and sadness brought upon the people of Bethlehem at his hand is unspeakable. You might ask the age old question, why God? Why did God allow this to happen? My only answer is that we as believers live in a sin-filled world. We have to cling to the goodness of God and that His purposes are just and bring goodness to us and glory to Him. Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good,  a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him”. Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

This action towards the innocents of Bethlehem shows the omniscient power of God to know the future as the prophecy in verse 18 from Jeremiah was given hundreds of years before. God knows the heart of mankind and the evil that our sin natures can cause. We have seen evil in the world century after century and the destruction it brings. We only need to remember the times of Noah, Judges and David in the Old Testament and those who plotted to kill Jesus, Paul, Stephen and Peter. It is by God’s grace that we are saved through faith and can rise above the desires and pressures of this sin-filled world. We can know God’s love, forgiveness and comfort even as the world struggles with sin that effects all the world around us. We can thank God for His eternal protection and salvation. We can know that in Him all is right. Take heart in these verses from Romans 8:37-39 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Linda

Advent Shouts of Humility, Protection and Provision, Are you listening?

During my trip to Israel in 2014, I was privileged to visit Bethlehem and the place thought to be the birthplace of Jesus. The stable was actually in a cave and provided protection from the elements for both man and beast. Whether or not it is the actual place is irrelevant as once there you can visualize the actual happenings that night for Mary, Joseph and the new born baby. The events are recorded in Luke 2:6-7. Let the humbleness of the setting and arrival speak to you as you read the scripture. “And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Here are a few things that jumped out at me: God’s timing is perfect. Mary did not go into labor on the journey to Bethlehem. God protected them as they were not outside with no protection. God provided for them as they had a place to lay Jesus down- in a manger and clothes in which to swaddle the baby. God gave them exactly what they needed at the right time. This speaks to me of God’s providential care. A verse I claim often is Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good,  a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, ” God took care of Mary, Joseph and Jesus that night and in the days ahead. God will do the same for each of us.

Take some time today and thank God for His perfect timing, His protection and His provision in your life. Trust in Him as He is good and cares for you. God can be your refuge especially in hard times, cling to Him.

Cave setting of Christ’s birth as we sang Silent Night.

Linda

Advent Shows God’s Perfect Place at the Perfect Time

Nothing shows us the Sovereignty of God like the birth of Christ. God being Sovereign means that all things, circumstances, people and governments are under God’s control. He sees all things and knows how they fit together to complete His plan. Luke records the events that led Mary and Joseph and their unborn child to be present in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth. The prophecy of where the Messiah was to be born is found in Micah 5:2. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,  who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old,  from ancient days.” The promised Messiah would also be from the line of David, as God had promised David’s kingdom would be eternal.(2 Chronicles 7:18) God had also promised Abraham, David’s ancestor, in Genesis 12:3b “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” All of these promises came together miraculously at the birth of Christ because of the love of our Sovereign God.

Luke 2:1-5 “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

God in His Sovereignty knew the timing was perfect for the arrival of His Son. Both Mary and Joseph were of the line of David and would have been required to register in the census decreed by the Roman emperor. All those over the age of 12 were made register and pay a poll tax to Caesar. Mary being 9 months pregnant was not excuse to not travel to Bethlehem for this census. It was 3 days journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and I can imagine it was an uncomfortable and tiring trip for both Mary and Joseph.

What does this teach us about God? Truly, God is sovereign as He orchestrated all the events to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for the birth of His Son. He chose the people- Mary and Joseph both godly people of the family of David in the tribe of Judah. The chose the time, Rome just happened to want a census and demanded all comply. He chose the event- the birth of His Son. That covers the who, when, where and what of Christ’s birth. The why? God told Mary and Joseph through the angel He was sending His only Son to ‘save their people from their sins’ and that ‘all the world through Him would be saved.’ Jesus would be ‘God with us, Immanuel.’

Today as you meditate on the arrival of this young couple in Bethlehem, ponder anew the sovereignty of God. Have you seen God work things out in amazing ways in your own life? Have you seen things happen in perfect order you would never have orchestrated? Have you been in the right place at the right time and wondered how that happened? In life are no accidents, there are no coincidences in God’s kingdom, only the providence or divine care and direction of Almighty, Sovereign God. As we walk with Him, we learn that God can use all things that happen in our lives for our good and His glory.

Linda

Imagine seeing and hearing the Glory of God revealed by Angels

In Luke 2:8-14 angels from heaven appear to humble shepherds out tending their flocks.

Heavenly-HostThat night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in highest heaven,  and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

I cannot even imagine the awe and wonder that must have filled the shepherds.  Seeing glorious heavenly beings, shining before them praising God and giving them the good news of the birth of their long awaited Savior, Messiah and Lord.   They were even told where this glorious event took place, in Bethlehem.  As Luke describes the scene he said the ‘glory of the Lord’  surrounded them.  I can well imagine their fear at seeing such a radiant sight, but again the angels told them not to fear.   God wanted them to rejoice at this glorious announcement not be overcome with fear.

Where do you see God in this event?  In the heavenly angels appearing, the fact that the angelic beings spoke to the human shepherds, that the timing was perfect in announcing the birth of the Savior, that the angels knew exactly where Jesus was born and the angels radiated God’s glory around them.  Truly it was a miraculous event that showed God’s gloryGod’s glory is the total of all God’s attributes.  God displayed His glory in the beauty and wisdom of His creation.  Throughout history, God has revealed His glory to His people through His power, mercy, grace, judgement, holiness, love and every other attribute.  In the Old Testament we see His glory symbolically represented by fire in a cloud. His glorious presence came to dwell in the Tabernacle and then the Temple as God came to dwell among His people.  The Lord Jesus Christ reveals God’s glory completely.   The angels were announcing the arrival of God’s glory in human form, His Son, Jesus.  Hebrews 1 3Hebrews 1:3 tells us “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”   Isaiah had a vision of the throne room of God in Isaiah 6:3 he describes the scene, “And they were calling to one another:  “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Ezekiel  also recounted his vision of heaven in Ezekiel 3:12 “Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound as the glory of the Lord rose from the place where it was standing.”  God is always surrounded by His glory and radiant power.  Amazingly for us, in Jesus is revealed the fullness of God’s glory and we can know Him and experience His glory in our lives.

Knowing God is glorious scripture tells us that we can see His glory in His creation. Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God;   the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” glory of god Knowing that Jesus reflects God’s glory means that having Jesus’ Holy Spirit indwelling us gives us the power to bring glory to God by doing His work.  Hebrews 13:21 “ equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

May you glimpse God’s glory in nature and in the working of Christ in your life.

Linda

Provider God gives exactly what is needed. See it?

The story continues in Luke 2:4-7 with scenes that could have been filled with confusion, despair, hopelessness and desperation but God.  I always love that whenever you see But, or Therefore in scripture you see the results of what God did or will do in a situation.  Here Mary and Joseph could have experienced all those emotions BUT God intervened. And Joseph mary and joseph journeyalso went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Mary and Joseph had to make the 60 mile journey by walking or riding a donkey.  The government required they travel to Bethlehem to register for the ordered census. (God provided protection for them during their journey.)   When they got there, the city was crowded with other travelers,  and there was no room at any of the inns.  The inn keeper having mercy upon them let them stay in his stables. (God provided a place when none existed and a merciful innkeeper.)  Her time to deliver the child came when they got to Bethlehem, not before on the road,  but mercifully after they arrived. (God provided the perfect timing.) They had no crib so they laid Jesus in a manger which is used to hold hay when feeding animals. (God provided a special place for the child.)  They were safe and The-Providerout of the elements because God provided what they needed.  God is our ProviderGod provides for every creature He has made.  He feeds the birds and gives us our daily food. We do not have strength or goodness of our own,  but God gives it to us generously.  He provides a way out of temptation and protects us from evil.  God’s greatest provision was sending His Son Jesus.  Because He gave us Jesus, we can trust Him for everything else we need.

Where do you see God’s provision for you in your life?  We live in a world driven by wants and desires, greed and power.  Sometimes we have to step back and look at our lives, what we have, the people, places and things that our ours.   Where did they come from?  If you say, “I did it”, aren’t you fooling yourself?  Who gave you the opportunities to achieve, who gave you the strength, desire and power to overcome?  God promises that He will meet our needs, not necessarily all our wants.  Philippians 4:19 reminds us of God’s power to provide, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  God knows what we need even before we ask as He is our all-knowing provider.

psalm 23 1Here are a few other verses to ponder as you consider God, your provider.  Psalm 23 :1 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”  Psalm 34:9 “O [reverently] fear the Lord, you His saints (believers, holy ones);  For to those who fear Him there is no want.”  1 Corinthians 2:9 ““No eye has seen, no ear has heard,    and no mind has imagined what God has prepared  for those who love him.”

no lackPraise and give thanks to your great Provider.  God alone can and does provide what we need physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Thank you Jesus!

Linda

Bethlehem reveals God’s Omnipotence!

We have seen the power and might of God, His knowledge of people and His choices of who He would use to bring about His plan for our redemption.  Today we see His sovereign power and His control of places and world events.

Luke 2:1-4  In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world Bethlehemshould be registered. This was the first registration when  Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,”   

It was no coincidence that the Roman emperor had a census taken and that Mary and Joseph would need to travel to Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral home.  He was in the line of David and David’s home had been in Bethlehem in Judea since he was of the tribe of Judah.  In addition, God knew this ahead of time because the Old Testament  prophecy regarding where the Messiah would be born was given hundred of years before the event in Micah 5:2

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
    from ancient days.

God knew when and where His Son would be born,  and it happened exactly when and where God designed it.  Not only do we see God’s sovereignty in the choice and Omnipotentcontrol of people and places but we see His Omnipotence God is All Powerful as He has unlimited power and influence.  He does all He wants and intends to do.  God is the source of all power and without God’s power everything would fall apart.  His power holds the stars in place and sustains life.   Having Mary able to travel, Joseph having to go to Bethlehem, the Roman government requiring a census are all evidences of God’s Omnipotent power.  His power and influence extends to His whole creation and nothing happens by chance.

Where do you see God’s Omnipotent power in your life?  Nothing happens that is outside His control.   His will cannot be thwarted and He will see all to completion.  No earthly leader or worldly power can stop God’s plans.  Daniel expressed his awe at God’s power in Daniel 2:20-21 ““Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
    to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
    he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to those who have understanding;    Daniel knew that God had power over all things, people and places.  Job also knew of God’s Omnipotent power as he states in Job 42:2  “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

job 42 2Look for God in the little things in your life and soon you will see His presence everywhere.  God’s providential care of those who believe in Jesus is a blessing beyond measure.

Linda