Christmas story…continued, Simeon

Most of us think of the Christmas story being over after the shepherd’s visited the new born king. However, there were several significant events within the first few months and years of Christ’s birth that scripture deems important enough to include. The first occurred just 40 days after Jesus’ birth. As was Jewish custom they went to the temple to offer sacrifices for their first born son, as was required by the Law of Moses. Women were not able to present themselves at the temple until 40 days after giving birth to a son and were then expected to offer a sacrifice for their purification. Bethlehem is near to Jerusalem so they journeyed there for the ceremony.

Luke 2: 22-35  When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

This portion of the story tells of Simeon’s faith and belief that he would indeed see the Messiah before his death. He had waited patiently for years but believed God’s promises to him. This portion of the story was a confirmation, yet again, to Mary and Joseph that their child would be special and do great things. Also, this portion of the story shows us God’s power, Sovereignty and Omniscience. God had the power to come upon Simeon and reveal future events and purposes He had for His Son. It shows God’s Sovereignty over time and people in causing the future to be exactly as He says. Lastly, it shows God Omniscience. He knew what the future would hold, He knew what Jesus was sent to do to redeem Israel and He knew who was involved.

What does this portion of the story have for us? Like Simeon we can trust God to fulfill His promises. The Bible is filled with His promises to us. Claim them for your own. Need and idea or two, see my book Promises for Dynamic Living. It is available from my publisher, Certa Publishing, or from Amazon. It is filled with Promises you can claim in your life. Knowing God’s promises increases your faith and will lead you to trust God more fully. Like Mary and Joseph, we can read what Simeon prophesied about Jesus and see what His future would be. We can compare that to His actual life recorded into the gospels and see the truth of His redemption. We can also see God’ power in the events, His promises kept to Simeon and His Omniscience. Knowing those we can walk trusting God more fully each day. God’s knowledge of the future and sovereignty over events did not stop with Jesus, but is true for us in our time too. God knows the things that will impact our lives and we need to walk daily trusting Him to know the future and fulfill His promise to us.

Linda

Joseph’s Example

In today’s portion of the Christmas story we transition to Joseph. As we see in this passage, he was an upright Jew who followed the law. He shows compassion and caring for Mary as he does not want her disgraced and plans to divorce her quietly. Their betrothals were more binding than our ‘engagements’ as to end them they actually had to seek a divorce.

Matthew 1:18-25 “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”(which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus”.

From this passage we can tell that Joseph is open to listening to the angel and takes what he says as truth. He does not question the angel as to how this could even be possible, but accepts the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy as fact and acts in faith by taking Mary home to be his wife. He did not object to the possible ridicule they would face or the difficult times ahead for them both but trusted the Lord to see them through as he knew it was God’s plan. I admire Joseph’s faith and trust in God and his compassion and love for Mary.

From this passage we can also tell things about God. God knew Joseph’s inner most thoughts. He did not have to hear them aloud as the angel came and addressed Joseph’s concerns and future plans as He had prior knowledge of his thoughts. God is Omniscient and knows all that happens and will happen in our world. God knows our inner most thoughts and there is nothing we can hide from Him. God had a plan to save all mankind through His Son Jesus and used a miraculous plan that only God could conceive and execute. God is Sovereign over all actions in our world and can make things happen that defy our natural world though his Omnipotent power. By using the Holy Spirit to indwell Mary so that she would conceive a child showed God’s ability to be present within us, His Omnipresence.

Which of these attributes of God is most meaningful to you today? Do you forget that God is Omniscient and try to ‘get away’ with sin? Do you rationalize it by thinking it is a little sin and God won’t care? What about His Sovereignty and Omnipotent power? Do you trust God to be in control of all things in your life? Do you pray like you believe that He is and can do all things? Forgetting or ignoring the fact that God is Omnipresent denies the truth that He is with us always. Jesus’ parting words in Matthew 28:19-20 say otherwise, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus promises to be with us, Omnipresent with each believer always. Do you live life like Jesus is right there with you in the problems and in the celebrations?

There is much to ponder in this portion of the Christmas story that can lead us to greater faith and trust in Almighty God. Will you follow in Joseph’s path and walk with humility, faith and trust in God today? Will you trust God to walk before you and with you to face the problems and challenges each day brings? Use your faith and see the miracles only God can do in your life!

Linda

Zechariah’s Child Brings Hope of Redemption

Zechariah’s prophecy part 2, Luke 1: 76-80. In these verses of Zechariah’s song of praise to the Lord, he focuses on his own new born son and the place and purpose God has for him..

Luke 1:76-80 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Here is what scripture tells of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son just as prophesied: John 1:6-8 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” He was known during his ministry as John the baptizer or John the Baptist. Not only did Zechariah give prophesies about John and his mission for God but the ancient prophet Isaiah has also foretold of one coming to pave the way for Jesus hundreds of years before. Matthew 3:1-3 “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:4 “And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Luke 3:2  during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

All 4 gospels speak of John and his mission to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. He was to enlighten the Jews as to their sinfulness, like the prophets of old, and point them to Jesus. Zechariah’s prophesy speaks of the condition of the people at that time- living in darkness under the shadow of death. This refers to the bondage of sin that Jesus came to lift and to Him bringing His light of life. John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Not only would Jesus bring the light of life but peace to their souls. In John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

How do these prophesies encourage you today? First, they tell me that God had a plan long ago to redeem us from our sins. He planned to send Jesus to bring us life, light, freedom from sin and peace. Next, God is Sovereign. Over that centuries He wove His plan through the people of God, the Jews, through the line of Seth to Abraham to David to Jesus. He brought them over distances far and wide using rulers who believed as well as those who did not. Only God is Sovereign over time, space, people and things. Only God could preserve His people through thousands of years. Lastly, it strikes me that God is love. He loved us so much that He brought His plan to completion by the sending of His one and only Son, Jesus to die for our sins. John 3:16 says God orchestrated all time and space to bring His Son Jesus and just the right time in just the right place for all the right reasons, to save us. Thanks be to God! Praise Him this season for His love, sovereignty and plan of redemption. He did it for you and me!

Linda

Herod The Great- Definitely Not so Great

This portion of the Advent story is not very pleasant. It shows how evil, greed 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 God sent home by another route after appearing to them in a dream. There was no excusing or escaping the intentional 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