After Advent…Epiphany, Wise Men’s Obedience Speaks to Us

Each year Western Christians celebrate January 6 as Epiphany. It commemorates the arrival of the Magi to worship Jesus. For the last several days I have been blogging on the arrival of the Magi and what their story has to say to us today.

The heart of their visit to Jesus’ family was one of worship and obedience. Obedience brought protection for Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the Magi against the evil intent that God knew was in Herod’s heart. The Magi were obedient to follow the message in their dream to not return to Herod. Joseph was again visited by an angel and told to take Mary and baby Jesus and go to Egypt. He was obedient and packed them up and left immediately. The Magi returning home and Joseph took his young family to Egypt and eventually to Nazareth after Herod’s death. This shows God’s omniscient power over current threatening events and prophecies given hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth.

Matthew 2:12-15 “And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Where is God calling you to be obedient? Is He directing you to share, give, comfort, lend a helping hand, provide care or listen with a loving heart? Our obedience is important and loved by God. It is an attribute God desires for our lives and shows our love and respect for Him in a very real and tangible way. When I think on the priority God places on obedience, my thoughts go to 1 Samuel 15:22. “And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,  and to listen than the fat of rams.” God desires that we are obedient and with that obedience comes blessing. The Magi were blessed with seeing the child and not giving further help to the evil of Herod. Mary and Joseph were blessed by continued protection from harm and provision through the gifts of the Magi. All of their acts of obedience brought glory to God and His plan for mankind.

Have you ever considered how your obedience is a tool for God to use in the lives of others? Your obedience, like that of Joseph, Mary and the Wise Men can and will be used by God to bless others. Meditate today on the effects of your obedience to God and His Word. 1 John 5:3-4 gives us a guide by which we can frame our obedience. It is specific and direct- not always easy but true. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” Walk in faithful obedience to God’s Word and His Son and see how God blesses and multiplies your effect upon others for Him.

Linda

Advent…Joseph’s Example=faith & obedience

Today we shift from Mary and her relatives to Joseph’s encounter with God and his journey of faith and obedience. Matthew 1:18-25

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. This portion of the Advent story tells us a lot about Joseph’s character and their customs. Being betrothed in those times was more binding than an engagement today and they were considered husband and wife even though they did not live together or have relations. To end a betrothal it was necessary to sign divorce papers. Joseph knew because he was righteous, meaning he followed the laws of Moses and abided by them in his daily life, that announcing publicly that Mary was with child would lead to her public judgement and stoning. He cared for Mary and decided to do this quietly to save her life.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Joseph was given directions from God through a dream. This was not an unusual way for God to speak with someone as he appeared to Jacob, Joseph, Gideon and others in Old Testament times and Joseph would have known these stories. The angel specifically said he was to take Mary as his wife as her son was of the Holy Spirit. She had not been unfaithful but was being used by God for a greater purpose. He would have known of the promised Messiah and that his coming was to be by supernatural means through the line of David. Isaiah who lived hundreds of years before Joseph had prophesied in Isaiah 7:14 of this coming event. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. As the angel spoke these words to Joseph, he knew the truth of Mary’s circumstances and stepped out in faith to do as God commanded. He was immediately obedient.

Joseph’s character was one of shining faith and obedience. He did not question, argue or doubt God and His request. He did not doubt God’s ability to cause Mary to be pregnant though His Holy Spirt. He did not seek help with family problems over marrying an already pregnant fiancée. He stepped out in total faith doing just as God commanded him to do. I thank God for this glimpse into Joseph’s character as it gives a picture of the faith and obedience God desires of me also.

What about you? Will you step out in obedient faith and follow God’s direction this Advent season? Look for those God given opportunities to show your faith in Jesus.

Linda

Aftermath: Obedience Brought Escape and Blessings

Obedience brought protection for Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the Magi against the evil intent that God knew was in Herod’s heart. The Magi were obedient to follow the message in their dream to not return to Herod. Joseph was again visited by an angel and told to take Mary and baby Jesus and go to Egypt. He was obedient and packed them up and left immediately. The Magi returning home and Joseph taking his young family to Egypt and eventually Nazareth shows God’s omniscient power over current threatening events and in fulfilling prophecies given hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth.

Matthew 2:12-15 “And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Where is God calling you to be obedient? Is He directing you to share, give, comfort, lend a helping hand, provide care or listen with a loving heart? Our obedience is important and loved by God. It is an attribute God desires for our lives and shows our love and respect for Him in a very real and tangible way. When I think on the priority God places on obedience, my thoughts go to 1 Samuel 15:22. “And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,  and to listen than the fat of rams.” God desires that we are obedient and with that obedience comes blessing. The Magi were blessed with seeing the child and not giving further help to the evil of Herod. Mary and Joseph were blessed by continued protection from harm and provision through the gifts of the Magi. All of their acts of obedience brought glory to God and His plan for mankind.

Have you ever considered how your obedience is a tool for God to use in the lives of others? Your obedience, like that of Joseph, Mary and the Wise Men can and will be used by God to bless others. Meditate today on the effects of your obedience to God and His Word. 1 John 5:3-4 gives us a guide by which frame our obedience. It is specific and direct- not always easy but true. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” Walk in faithful obedience to God’s Word and His Son and see how God blesses and multiplies your effect upon others for Him.

Linda

Advent, A Love Story Unfolding

Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, and John are all major players in the coming of Christ and are portrayed in Luke. Today we are switching to Matthew to read the story of Joseph who is the betrothed young man to Mary and we will see God’s intervention on his behalf. Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,  and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

I am captivated by the thoughtfulness and concern Joseph had for his fiancé, Mary. Custom dictated that she would be stoned for adultery, Deuteronomy 22:24-25. In their culture the betrothal was much more binding and could only be broken by divorce, thus Mary was referred to as his wife and he her husband. Joseph knew they were not yet married physically and that he had not yet slept with her. Her being with child meant she had committed adultery in the eyes of the Jewish law. Joseph cared for Mary and did not want to see her disgraced and killed. Scripture says “he considered these things.” His heart must have been heavy and troubled as he thought about these grave circumstances. I’m sure he thought about the Mary he knew and could not understand her ‘betrayal’ with another man. In comes the angel bringing answers to his questions and restoration of his hope, love and devotion for Mary. Isn’t that just like God to send an answer just when we need it most? His timing is perfect and no harm was done to Mary, Joseph and the growing child within her. Their faith was increased and their relationship strengthened as they stepped out together in faith.

God’s reassuring message to Joseph led him from doubt to faith, from fear to trust, and from worry to resolve. Being a good Jew, Joseph would have known about the promised Messiah, about His birth by a virgin and the power of God. Joseph was a man of conviction, courage and faith. Look how he responded to the angel’s message in verse 24 “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him”. He took Mary as his wife. His response was obedience. Consider these:

Joseph’s faith, courage and conviction speak to me today. As great as those character qualities are in us without obedience they are lost. 1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” God desires that our faith will bring us to obedience. Joseph’s part in this story shows the great blessings instore for him through obedience. God has no less for us. Let your faith bring you to greater obedience as you seek to walk with Him today.

Linda

Advent Teaches us Hope and Joy come with Faithfulness

Our story begins during the reign of King Herod who reigned from 37-4 B.C. He comes into the story later but that gives us the time period in history. Elizabeth and Zechariah are the future parents of John the Baptist who was a fore-runner of Jesus. Elizabeth and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were relatives.

Luke 1: 5-7 “When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.”

A couple of things stood out as I read this passage: they were both old and childless and God commended them as righteous and obedient. Since we know in the story Elizabeth becomes the mother of John the Baptist, this being old and childless was an impossible situation. God used the impossible to bring about joy and preparation for Jesus’ arrival. How like God to make the impossible possible. Jesus, speaking of salvation said in Matthew 19:26 “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” I am reminded of Hebrews 11:6 ” And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Elizabeth and Zechariah were people of faith and were the perfect couple to show the power and might of God in their lives bringing joy to them as parents and servants of God and honor and glory to God. Do you trust God when faced with difficult or impossible situations? Do you believe and seek to please God with your faith in Him?

The second thing I noticed was God’s commendation of them as believers. He called them righteous in His eyes, in right standing with Him, blameless and pure. Their right standing with God came from their faith in Him and obedience to the law. Like Abraham their faith was counted to them as righteousness. Genesis 15:6 “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” They were not sinless but were faithful and sincere about keeping God’s commandments. How sincere are you about walking each day with Jesus? Do you study His Word and seek to know Him better? Would Jesus consider you to have a blameless walk with Him?

Let us take a lesson in Hope from Zechariah and Elizabeth. Faith in God makes all things possible, will please God and bring us joy. Advent means hope and joy though faith in Jesus. Trust God for the impossible and see how He will grow your faith and increase your joy!

Linda

Are you Carefully Obeying God?

The stream of water we had for this week was Deuteronomy 31:39-32:47. This is a long song that God had Moses compose to remind the people of who He is, what He has done, what He has promised to do if they are obedient. Meditate on the words as you read. I have added a question or comment along to way to stimulate your thinking on how this song can apply to us today.

30 So Moses recited this entire song publicly to the assembly of Israel:

32 “Listen, O heavens, and I will speak!
    Hear, O earth, the words that I say!
Let my teaching fall on you like rain;
How does God’s Word
    let my speech settle like dew.
affect you?
Let my words fall like rain on tender grass,
    like gentle showers on young plants.
I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
    how glorious is our God!
He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect.
Do you know who God is?
    Everything he does is just and fair.

He is a faithful God who does no wrong;
    how just and upright he is!

“But they have acted corruptly toward him;
    when they act so perversely,
are they really his children?
Do your actions each day
    They are a deceitful and twisted generation.
bring Him glory?
Is this the way you repay the Lord,
    you foolish and senseless people?
Isn’t he your Father who created you?
    Has he not made you and established you?
Remember the days of long ago;
    think about the generations past.
Are you passing on your
Ask your father, and he will inform you.
knowledge of God?
    Inquire of your elders, and they will tell you.
When the Most High assigned lands to the nations,
    when he divided up the human race,
he established the boundaries of the peoples
    according to the number in his heavenly court.

“For the people of Israel belong to the Lord;
    Jacob is his special possession.
10 He found them in a desert land,
Remember how God
    in an empty, howling wasteland.
has provided and protected.
He surrounded them and watched over them;
    he guarded them as he would guard his own eyes.
11 Like an eagle that rouses her chicks
    and hovers over her young,
so he spread his wings to take them up
    and carried them safely on his pinions.
12 The Lord alone guided them;
    they followed no foreign gods.
13 He let them ride over the highlands
    and feast on the crops of the fields.
He nourished them with honey from the rock
    and olive oil from the stony ground.
14 He fed them yogurt from the herd
    and milk from the flock,
    together with the fat of lambs.
He gave them choice rams from Bashan, and goats,
    together with the choicest wheat.
You drank the finest wine,
    made from the juice of grapes.

15 “But Israel soon became fat and unruly;
    the people grew heavy, plump, and stuffed!
Then they abandoned the God who had made them;
    they made light of the Rock of their salvation.
16 They stirred up his jealousy by worshiping foreign gods;
    they provoked his fury with detestable deeds.
17 They offered sacrifices to demons, which are not God,
    to gods they had not known before,
Remember how you have
to new gods only recently arrived,
failed to follow Him.
    to gods their ancestors had never feared.
18 You neglected the Rock who had fathered you;
    you forgot the God who had given you birth.

19 “The Lord saw this and drew back,
    provoked to anger by his own sons and daughters.
20 He said, ‘I will abandon them;
Has God left you to pursue
    then see what becomes of them.
your own idols? Money,
For they are a twisted generation,
success, greed, knowledge.
    children without integrity.
21 They have roused my jealousy by worshiping things that are not God;
    they have provoked my anger with their useless idols.
Now I will rouse their jealousy through people who are not even a people;
    I will provoke their anger through the foolish Gentiles.
22 For my anger blazes forth like fire
    and burns to the depths of the grave.
It devours the earth and all its crops
    and ignites the foundations of the mountains.
23 I will heap disasters upon them
    and shoot them down with my arrows.
24 I will weaken them with famine,
Has God allowed calamity
    burning fever, and deadly disease.
to come into your life to
I will send the fangs of wild beasts
cause you to turn back to
    and poisonous snakes that glide in the dust.
Him?
25 Outside, the sword will bring death,
    and inside, terror will strike
both young men and young women,
    both infants and the aged.
26 I would have annihilated them,
    wiping out even the memory of them.
27 But I feared the taunt of Israel’s enemy,
    who might misunderstand and say,
“Our own power has triumphed!
    The Lord had nothing to do with this!”’

28 “But Israel is a senseless nation;
    the people are foolish, without understanding.
29 Oh, that they were wise and could understand this!
    Oh, that they might know their fate!
30 How could one person chase a thousand of them,
    and two people put ten thousand to flight,
unless their Rock had sold them,
Do not be lured away
    unless the Lord had given them up?
by false worthless gods.
31 But the rock of our enemies is not like our Rock,
    as even they recognize.
32 Their vine grows from the vine of Sodom,
    from the vineyards of Gomorrah.
Their grapes are poison,
    and their clusters are bitter.
33 Their wine is the venom of serpents,
    the deadly poison of cobras.

34 “The Lord says, ‘Am I not storing up these things,
    sealing them away in my treasury?
God knows those who oppose
35 I will take revenge; I will pay them back.
us and will take care
    In due time their feet will slip.
of them in due time.
Their day of disaster will arrive,
    and their destiny will overtake them.’

36 “Indeed, the Lord will give justice to his people,
    and he will change his mind about his servants,
when he sees their strength is gone
God is just.
    and no one is left, slave or free.
37 Then he will ask, ‘Where are their gods,
    the rocks they fled to for refuge?

38 Where now are those gods,
    who ate the fat of their sacrifices
    and drank the wine of their offerings?
Let those gods arise and help you!
    Let them provide you with shelter!
39 Look now; I myself am he!
Do you know and
    There is no other god but me
!
believe this truth?
I am the one who kills and gives life;
    I am the one who wounds and heals;
    no one can be rescued from my powerful hand!
40 Now I raise my hand to heaven
    and declare, “As surely as I live,
41 when I sharpen my flashing sword
    and begin to carry out justice,
I will take revenge on my enemies
    and repay those who reject me.
42 I will make my arrows drunk with blood,
    and my sword will devour flesh—
the blood of the slaughtered and the captives,
    and the heads of the enemy leaders.”’

43 “Rejoice with him, you heavens,
    and let all of God’s angels worship him.
Rejoice with his people, you Gentiles,
    and let all the angels be strengthened in him.
For he will avenge the blood of his children;
    he will take revenge against his enemies.
He will repay those who hate him
Rejoice in Him and
    and cleanse his people’s land.”
trust Him.

44 So Moses came with Joshua son of Nun and recited all the words of this song to the people. 45 When Moses had finished reciting all these words to the people of Israel, 46 he added: “Take to heart all the words of warning I have given you today. Pass them on as a command to your children so they will obey every word of these instructions. 47 These instructions are not empty words—they are your life! By obeying them you will enjoy a long life in the land you will occupy when you cross the Jordan River.”

I pray that you and I will heed words of Moses’ song as they are words of life and prosperity, hope and regeneration and because they are centered on God’s promises to us as believers. God is a promise keeper and we can trust Him.

Blessings,

Linda