Friday, January 19, 2018
Moses: 1 “If you fully obey (listen to the Voice of) the LORD your God and carefully keep all His commands (commandments) that I am giving you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the world. 2 You will experience all these blessings if you obey (listen to the Voice of) the LORD your God: 3 Your towns and your fields will be blessed. 4 Your children and your crops will be blessed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed. 5 Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed. 6 Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed. 7 The LORD will conquer your enemies when they attack you. They will attack you from one direction, but they will scatter from you in seven! 8 “The LORD will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain. The LORD your God will bless you in the land He is giving you.”
9 “If you obey the commands (commandments) of the LORD your God and walk in His ways, the LORD will establish you as His holy people as He swore He would do. 10 Then all the nations of the world will see that you are a people claimed by the LORD, and they will stand in awe of you.”
11 “The LORD will give you prosperity (surplus) in the land He swore to your ancestors to give you, blessing you with many children, numerous livestock, and abundant crops. 12 The LORD will send rain at the proper time from His rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do. You will lend to many nations, but you will never need to borrow from them. 13 If you listen to these commands (commandments) of the LORD your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top (above) and never at the bottom. 14 You must not turn away from any of the commands (commandments) I am giving you today, nor follow after other gods and worship (serve) them.” Deuteronomy 28:1-14 (NLT)
This whole chapter of Deuteronomy 28 is a forceful statement of a universal value: those who are faithful to and obey the LORD God will receive His blessings (see Deuteronomy 28:1-14), and those who are unfaithful and disobedient to the LORD God can expect to receive His judgment and wrath (see Deuteronomy 28:15-68). Obedience to the living God and His moral commands leads to God’s blessings such as military success, good crops, healing, and healthy children (see also Exodus 23:22-27; Leviticus 26:3-13; 1 Kings 2:2-4; Psalm 1:1-3). Sadly, our disobedience to the living God and His moral commands leads to suffering such as disease, famine, and military defeat (see also Leviticus 26:14-39; Psalm 1:4-6). Both the Old and New Testament call for God’s people to wholeheartedly and faithfully obey the living God and His moral commandments and point to deserved punishment for those who do not (e.g., see Deuteronomy 10:12-13; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Matthew 5:17-19; Matthew 7:21; John 14:15, 21, 23; John 15:10; James 2:14-20; 1 John 2:2-3; 1 John 5:2-5; Revelation 14:12). God’s commandments – not legalisms such as the world’s rules, regulations, and ceremonies – are not burdensome (see Matthew 11:30; Matthew 23:4).
The living LORD God is always faithful to His people (e.g., see Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13), and He expects His people to be faithful and wholeheartedly worship and obey Him (e.g., see Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Deuteronomy 10:12-13). The living God wants to bless you (e.g., see Deuteronomy 6:2, 24; Deuteronomy 28:1-14)! God’s abundant blessings take many different forms and not just material wealth since as military success, healthy bodies, peace of mind, and productive lands (Deuteronomy 28:3-13; see also Leviticus 26:3-13). However, when we are unfaithful and disobedient to the living God, then the LORD God will discipline and punish instead (see Deuteronomy 28:15-68). The living God punishes the disobedient not through blind rage but to develop responsibility, character, and obedience from His people (see also Hebrews 12:5-11). In summary, obedience and faithfulness to the living God bring His blessings while our disobedience and unfaithfulness to the living God and His moral commandments bring His curses. Therefore, we should ALWAYS BE FAITHFUL, COMMITTED, AND OBEDIENT TO THE LIVING LORD GOD! There are always consequences to wrongdoing (e.g., see 2 Kings 17:7-20).
In the opening verses of Deuteronomy 28, Moses strongly instructs the people to wholeheartedly listen and obey the Voice of the LORD God and to practice carefully all the living God’s commandments (Deuteronomy 28:1; see also Exodus 15:26). Through our faithful obedience to His Voice and His moral commandments, the living LORD God promised to bless His people and set His people high above all other nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 28:1-2; see also Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 26:19). If we listen obediently to the Voice of LORD God and wholeheartedly obey all His commandments, then the living God promised the following blessings:
· blessed shall you be in the city and the country (Deuteronomy 28:3; see also Psalm 119:1; Psalm 128:1, 4-6);
· blessed shall be your children, the produce of your grounds, and the increase of your flocks and herds (Deuteronomy 28:4, 11; see also Exodus 25:26; Leviticus 26:9; Deuteronomy 7:12-13);
· blessed shall be your fruit and bread (see Deuteronomy 28:5);
· blessings shall be in your life when you come in and when you go out (Deuteronomy 28:6; see also Psalm 121:8).
Moreover, through our obedience to His Voice and moral commandments, the living God will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face (Deuteronomy 28:7; see also Exodus 23:22, 27; Leviticus 26:7-8). The living God will cause your enemies to come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways (see Deuteronomy 28:7). A part of the blessing of obedience to God is that enemies, concrete or abstract, flee. Even more, the LORD God will command His blessing on you, bless your land, and prosper the work of your hands (Deuteronomy 28:8; see also Leviticus 25:21; Deuteronomy 15:10). The LORD God will guarantee His blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with plenty (see also Leviticus 26:5).
Then, Moses declared to the people that through our keeping the living God’s moral commandments and walking in His righteous ways, the living God will change and establish you into His holy people dedicated to Himself (Deuteronomy 28:9; see also Exodus 19:5-6). Afterwards, all peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the Name of the LORD God, and they will be afraid and in awe of you (Deuteronomy 28:10; see also Exodus 34:6-7). Through our obedience to the LORD God’s Voice and His commandments, the living God’s Presence (Name) will be with you – that is the Holy Spirit of God (Deuteronomy 28:10; see also Exodus 23:20-33; Leviticus 26:3, 11-13; Jeremiah 7:23; Jeremiah 11:4; John 14:15-17, 21, 23).
Even more, through our obedience to His Voice and keeping His moral commandments, the LORD God promised to give you an abundance of many children, many cattle, and abundant crops (Deuteronomy 28:11; see also Leviticus 26:9). Also, the living God will open to you His wonderful treasuries from heaven and give His rain for fine crops every season (Deuteronomy 28:12; see also Leviticus 26:4; Deuteronomy 11:13-15). Moreover, the living God promises to bless the work of your hands and everything you do through our obedience to His Voice and keeping His moral commandments (Deuteronomy 28:12; see also Deuteronomy 8:17-18). In other words, the living God will bless His people in their daily work, care for them, and prosper their efforts. Furthermore, you will be a lender to many nations, but shall not borrow from anyone through obedience to His Voice and keeping His moral commandments (Deuteronomy 28:12; see also Psalm 37:26). Finally, the living God promised if you will obey His Voice and keep His moral commandments, then He will make you the head and not the tail, above and not beneath (see Deuteronomy 28:13).
Moses strongly proclaimed that all God’s abundant blessings depend upon His people wholeheartedly obeying the living God’s Voice and His righteous commandments (Deuteronomy 28:14; e.g., see also Deuteronomy 5:32; Joshua 1:7-8; James 1:22-25). The greatest of all God’s moral commandments is to never seek after and worship other gods (Deuteronomy 28:14; see also Leviticus 26:1-2; Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Matthew 22:37). The Holy Scriptures clearly proclaim that God’s abundant blessings and His Presence comes to those who honor and respect Him and humbly walk in all His righteous ways (e.g., see Psalm 119:1; Psalm 121:3-8; Psalm 128:1-4; Revelation 21:1-8). Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD (e.g., see Exodus 19:5; Psalm 33:12; Psalm 144:15; Psalm 146:5).
The Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed in the great Sermon on the Mount that He did not come to cancel the commandments of God nor the writings of Old Testament the prophets but obedience to His Father’s commandments (Matthew 5:17-19; see also Mark 13:31; Luke 16:17; Romans 3:31). In fact, believers of Jesus are under the same covenant originally given to Israel at Mount Sinai (e.g., see Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; John 14:15-16, 20-21, 23; John 15:9-10; 1 John 2:3-5; 2 John 1:6). The old covenant – the Ten Commandments – was written on stone by the LORD God’s finger for Israel to obey (e.g., see also Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:15-16; Exodus 34:1, 27-28; Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 5:22; Deuteronomy 10:1-4). However, the ancient Israel often broke and disobeyed God and His righteous laws (e.g., see Exodus 32; Jeremiah 11:10-11; Jeremiah 34:18; Malachi 2:8). The LORD God wrote His moral commandments given to Moses on stone tablets and not on the human heart. Thus, the old system of the law on stone tablets was powerless to purge away our sins and transform our heart and minds from within (2 Corinthians 3:3, 7; see also Exodus 24:12; Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:15-16; Exodus 34:1; Deuteronomy 9:10; Romans 8:3).
The Old Testament prophets predicted that this old covenant will now be written on our hearts which is what the Lord Jesus Christ has done through faith in Him (e.g., see Jeremiah 31:31-34; Jeremiah 32:37-41; Ezekiel 11:19-21; Ezekiel 36:24-27; Hebrews 8:8-12; Hebrews 10:16). Through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we become one with God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and the living God writes the covenant – the Ten Commandments – on our hearts! The new covenant instituted at Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death brings a new and transformed heart and mind by the Holy Spirit and declares everyone righteous who believe and obey Jesus and the Gospel message (2 Corinthians 3:6-9, 11-12; see also John 3:3-8; Romans 3:28; Romans 5:1-5; Galatians 3:2-5). Through faith in God’s Son Jesus, God’s original commandments are now engraved inwardly onto believers’ hearts and minds and it is no longer an external set of rules and principles (2 Corinthians 3:3-4; e.g., see also Jeremiah 31:31-34; Jeremiah 32:37-41; Ezekiel 11:19-21; Ezekiel 36:24-27). The Holy Spirit works inside believer to activate our consciences, influence our motives and desires, and make us want to obey God (see Romans 8:2, 5; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6).
Sadly, during Jesus’ years on earth and even today, many religious leaders are guilty of taking away from God’s Law – the Ten Commandments – by replacing God’s commandments with their own traditions and rituals that were not given by God (e.g., see Matthew 15:3-9; Mark 7:1-13). Such rules and regulations may seem holy, but they are legalism. Jesus rebuked these religious leaders for adding to God’s laws (see Matthew 23:1-4). The living God wants everyone to listen to His Voice and practice commandments down in our hearts because obedience to God’s Voice and His commandments brings our salvation and blessings (e.g., see Deuteronomy 26:16-17; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Malachi 3:14-18; Matthew 12:36; Matthew 19:16-19; Luke 8:12, 15; Romans 2:16; Romans 14:10, 12; 1 Corinthians 4:5).
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Moses: 16 “Today the LORD your God has commanded you to obey all these decrees and regulations. So be careful to obey (do and keep) them wholeheartedly (all your heart and mind). 17 You have declared (openly) today that the LORD is your God. And you have promised (pledged) to walk in His ways, and to obey (keep) His decrees, commands, and regulations, and to do everything He tells you (listen to His voice). 18 The LORD has declared today that you are His people, His own special treasure, just as He promised, and that you must obey (keep) all His commands. 19 And if you do, He will set you high above all the other nations He has made. Then you will receive praise, honor, and renown. You will be a nation that is holy to the LORD your God, just as He promised.” Deuteronomy 26:16-19 (NLT)
The Law of God from the Old Testament has many rules and regulations, and the book of Deuteronomy summarizes these many rules and regulations. Thus, Biblical scholars often call the book of Deuteronomy the “second law.” In Deuteronomy, Moses summarizes God’s teaching and events from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Moreover, Deuteronomy repeated verbatim the Ten Commandments and other laws given at Mount Sinai as recorded at Exodus chapters 20 through 24 (e.g., see Deuteronomy 4:44 – 5:33).
The first generation of Israelites leaving Egypt and many other Israelite generations thereafter were often unfaithful and disobedient to the living God and His moral commands (e.g., see Exodus 32:1-35; Deuteronomy 32:8-14; 2 Kings 17:7-23; 2 Kings 18:9-12; 2 Kings 21:2-16; 2 Kings 23:26-28; 2 Kings 24:3; 2 Kings 25:1-22; 2 Chronicles 33:1-9). Often, the ancient Israelites did not have faith (trust and belief) that the living God would care and provide for them and they looked to other gods (e.g., see Deuteronomy 9:23-24; Deuteronomy 31:27; Psalm 106:24-25)! The living God is faithful and loving (e.g., see Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:9), and He wanted to be Israel’s protector and provider (e.g., see Exodus 23:25; Deuteronomy 7:9, 12-15; Ezra 8:22; Psalm 7:10; Psalm 119:64). Sadly, lacking faith and obedience to the living God brings His displeasure and grievance.
Deuteronomy makes clear; however, that the Law of God was meant to penetrate a person’s heart, soul, and mind (Deuteronomy 26:16; see also Deuteronomy 6:6; Deuteronomy 32:46; Isaiah 51:7; Jeremiah 31:33). Because of God’s gracious love and compassion for all people (e.g., see Psalm 103:8-10; John 3:16), Moses’ primary concern was that Israel responds with wholehearted love and obedience to God (e.g., see Deuteronomy 4:37; Deuteronomy 7:7-8; Deuteronomy 10:15; Deuteronomy 23:5). From the very beginning, the living God was not impressed with our outward rules, regulations, and rituals, but our inner attitudes and motives of the heart were important to God (e.g., see Leviticus 26:41-43; 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 1:10-20; Isaiah 66:3; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 6:20; Jeremiah 7:22-23; Jeremiah 22:3, 16; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21; Micah 6:6-8; Romans 2:28-29). Repeatedly, the living God commanded Israel to follow His commandments, trust Him with all their heart and all their soul, and walk in all His ways (Deuteronomy 26:17-18; e.g., see also Deuteronomy 4:29; Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 12:12-13; Proverbs 3:5-6). Unless the Law of God becomes part of a person’s inner attitudes, it will probably make no difference. God has always wanted our wholehearted love, faithfulness, and obedience towards Him (Deuteronomy 6:4-6; see also Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). In other words, God wants our total devotion to Him from our hearts and not our lip service (see Matthew 6:33). Even from the book of Genesis, the living God created the world and people (humans), so they would have a faithful relationship and union with Him and become His holy people like Him (e.g., see Genesis 1:26-28; Genesis 6:9-10; Genesis 15:6; Exodus 19:5-8; Leviticus 11:44-45; Habakkuk 2:2-4; Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6-9; James 2:23-24).
In addition, God wants our unfailing love, mercy, truth, kindness, compassion, patience, forgiveness and faithfulness towards others (Luke 10:25-37; see also Leviticus 19:18; Micah 6:6-8; John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:19-21). The living God gave the people His commandments and statutes so they that they will love their neighbors and do them good and not evil (e.g., see Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 22:1-4; Romans 13:10). These good fruits (works) reflect God’s very character and nature (Exodus 34:6-7; see also Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 3:12-15).
At least 15 times in Deuteronomy, Moses repeatedly tells Israel to wholeheartedly love and obey God. Through our wholehearted love, trust, and obedience to the living God and His righteous commandments, we would be His holy people and receive God’s life, favor (grace), and blessings (Deuteronomy 26:18-19; e.g., see also Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 6:24-25; Deuteronomy 11:9; Deuteronomy 12:28; Deuteronomy 28:1, 9; Titus 2:11-14; 1 Peter 2:9-10). Life itself depended on keeping and obeying God’s righteous commandments and ordinances from our whole hearts (e.g., see Deuteronomy 4:1; Deuteronomy 5:32-33; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 16:20). Obedience to God’s laws leads to life and possession of God’s good promises (e.g., see Deuteronomy 6:24-25; Joshua 1:7-9). Even more through our trust and obedience to the living God, He promised to be with and live with us – His Presence (e.g., see Leviticus 26:9-12). God is more concerned about hearts (Matthew 15:16-20), and only He sees our hearts – the way we are deep down (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Matthew 21:27; 1 Corinthians 13:12).
The Law of God is embodied most famously in the Ten Commandments (see Deuteronomy 5:6-21), and most concisely in the Shema (see Deuteronomy 6:4-9). All other laws of God (approximately 613) and the Old Testament Prophets are interpretations and applications of God’s Ten Commandments and the Shema (see Matthew 22:34-40). In Deuteronomy chapters 12:1 through 26:15, the living God through His servant Moses gave Israel specific applications to the Ten Commandments. In these chapters, the living God gave Israel guidelines and applications of the Ten Commandments in everyday life such as appointing leaders, prophecy, generosity, handling civil disputes, military matters, parenting, sexual purity, divorce, and many other regulations.
The essences of the entire Law and the Prophets are to love, obey and worship exclusively the LORD God FIRST and to love one another (Deuteronomy 4:3; see also Leviticus 19:18; Exodus 20:4-6; Deuteronomy 5:7; Matthew 7:12; Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:13-14). Loving God and loving others reflect the very nature of God’s Son, Jesus (e.g., see Philippians 2:1-11). Thus, God’s laws are just as applicable today as first given to Israel at Mount Sinai, repeated by Moses in Deuteronomy, and reaffirmed in the New Testament (see Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21; Matthew 19:16-19; Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 12:9-21; Romans 13:8-10). Jesus Christ extended this all-important law to the church – love His Father, the LORD God (see Matthew 22:37). Israel was never to worship other gods or idols but to seek and worship wholeheartedly the living God (Deuteronomy 4:3-4; see also Amos 5:4-6; Micah 6:6-8; Zechariah 1:3-4). God’s Son Jesus is our primary example to follow because He alone perfectly obeyed all God’s laws and modeled the laws true spiritual intent.
After Moses gave Israel specific applications to the Ten Commandment, Moses and the leaders (priests and elders) of Israel instructed the people to wholeheartedly obey all the commands of the living God when they crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land of the LORD God (see Deuteronomy 27:1-3, 9-10). Once in the Promised Land, Moses instructed Israel to set up some large stones and coat these large stones with plaster and then write this whole body of instruction on the large stones -the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 27:3-4, 8; see also Joshua 8:30-32). Then in the Promised Land, Israel is to build an altar to the LORD God and then set up these stones at Mount Ebal with joyful feasting, offerings, and celebration (see Deuteronomy 27:4-7).
At that moment, Moses and the Levitical priests addressed all Israel and instructed Israel to proclaim blessings that followings obedience to God and curses that followings disobedience to the living God (see Deuteronomy 27:9-14). Moses and the leaders once again announced to Israel that the living God’s curses come upon those who:
1. makes and worships an idol – handmade gods (Deuteronomy 27:15; see also Exodus 20:1-6, 23);
2. dishonors and mistreats his father or mother (Deuteronomy 27:16; see also Exodus 20:12);
3. steals property from a neighbor (Deuteronomy 27:17; see also Exodus 20:15; Deuteronomy 19:14);
4. leads and takes advantage of a blind person or anyone with disabilities (Deuteronomy 27:18; see also Leviticus 19:14);
5. denies justice and fairness to foreigners, orphans, or widows (Deuteronomy 27:19; see also Exodus 22:21-24; Deuteronomy 14:28-29; Deuteronomy 24:17-18; Luke 18:1-8);
6. violates sexual purity and have sexual intercourse (adultery) with one of his father’s wives, an animal, his sister, or his mother-in-law (Deuteronomy 27:20-23; see also Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 18:6-23; Leviticus 20:10-21; Deuteronomy 22:30);
7. who attacks a neighbor in secret (Deuteronomy 27:24; see also Exodus 20:13; Exodus 21:12);
8. accepts payment (bribe) to kill or harm an innocent person (Deuteronomy 27:25; see also Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19-20).
Then, Moses gave Israel the final curse (see Deuteronomy 27:26). Everyone is cursed who does not obey and listen to the words of this Law (voice of God) by doing and practicing them (Deuteronomy 27:26; see also Leviticus 26:14-39; Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Psalm 119:21). The Apostle Paul in the New Testament used the last and final course from Deuteronomy 27:26 to show that no one could be justified, saved, and win God’s favor (grace) by obeying the Law (see Galatians 3:10-11). From the very beginning, the living God declared the only way we can be right in His sight is by faith, which means trusting wholeheartedly in the living God (e.g., see Genesis 15:6; Habakkuk 2:2-4; Romans 1:15-16; Galatians 2:16). The Good News is that the Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the curses of the Law by taking the curse for our wrongdoing upon Himself (see Galatians 3:13). To say that we have kept some of the Law of God does not excuse us, for to break one is to break them all (see James 2:10-11).
Amazingly through our faith in the living God’s Son the Lord Jesus Christ, we received the Holy Spirit of God within our hearts and the living God writes His Law on our hearts which empowers and strengthens us to obey the Law (Galatians 3:14; e.g., see also Jeremiah 31:31-34; Jeremiah 32:37-41; Ezekiel 11:19-21; Ezekiel 36:24-27; 2 Corinthians 3:3-4). The Holy Spirit works inside believers to activate our consciences, influence our motives and desires, and make us want to obey God (see Romans 8:2, 5). Now doing God’s will is something believers genuinely desire with all our heart and mind (see 2 Corinthians 4:4-6).
In summary, we must continually stand firm by trusting and obeying the living LORD God and His ways with all our hearts (e.g., see Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Peter 5:8-9) and fleeing evil ways (e.g., see Galatians 5:19-21). Even during times of difficulty and hardship, God’s people must continually have faith and obedience in the living God and His righteous ways. The Lord Jesus Christ continually taught God’s people they may suffer losses and persecution in this world, but they must continually be of good cheer and peace because He has overcome and conquered the world (John 16:33; see also Matthew 10:22-23; Matthew 24:12-14; Mark 4:17; Mark 13:13).
Amplified Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987).
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament (Victor Books, 1989).
Saturday, December 30, 2017
1 …. We must not just please ourselves. 2 We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. 3 For even Christ did not live to please Himself…. 5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.... 13 I (Apostle Paul) pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.... 33 And now may God, who gives us His peace, be with you all. Amen. Romans 15:1-3, 5, 13, 33 (NLT)
A New Year always brings hope! Hope for a better tomorrow, hope for new beginnings, and hope for a fresh start! For believers of God, we realize that a New Year brings a better tomorrow and new beginnings because the living God’s tender mercies and committed love are renewed every morning (see Lamentations 3:21-23, 25). Even more, believers of God look forward to a New Year because the living God is our hope for a better tomorrow and new beginnings (Romans 15:13; see also Psalm 33:22; Psalm 130:5, 7; Lamentations 3:21; Micah 7:7).
The living God is faithful, and He will continue to be faithful into the New Year and eternity (e.g., see Deuteronomy 7:9; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 117:1-2; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:18-20; 1 John 1:9). The Holy Scriptures were written long ago to teach us about God’s unending love (e.g., see Exodus 34:6-7; John 3:16; 1 John 4:7-8, 16), and the Holy Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled (Romans 15:4; see also Psalm 119:49-50; 2 Timothy 3:16). With God’s help and guidance, believers can always expect a favorable and good outcome.
More specifically, biblical hope is the confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees our participation in what God will do in the future (e.g., see Hebrews 11, great chapter of faith and hope). The living God is the Author of hope, and He alone is the ultimate object of hope (see Romans 15:13). Therefore, we can always trust in the living God for a better tomorrow and new beginnings (see Lamentations 3:24, 26, 32). Even more, everyone who looks to Him can absolutely count on His help, forgiveness, and compassion (e.g., see 2 Chronicles 7:13-14; Joel 2:13; Zechariah 1:3; Malachi 3:6-7; James 4:8).
For example, the prophet Jeremiah saw hope in all the sin and sorrow surrounding him and his fellow Jews (see Lamentation 3:21-27). Unfortunately, the prophet Jeremiah saw the downfall and destruction of God’s people living in Israel and Judah after their disobedience and unfaithfulness to the living God and His righteous commands (e.g., see Jeremiah 7:9-11, 30). Yet, the prophet Jeremiah also saw hope for the future and restoration (e.g., see Jeremiah 29:11-14; Jeremiah 30:11; Jeremiah 32:37-41; Jeremiah 33:17-18). The prophet Jeremiah discovered, “The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning” (see Lamentations 3:22-23, NLT). Therefore, the prophet Jeremiah knew he could always trust in the living God (see Lamentations 3:24), and he rightfully called the living God the “Hope of Israel” (see Jeremiah 14:8; Jeremiah 17:13). The living God secures the futures of all who trust and hope in Him (e.g., see 1 Corinthians 13:13).
Another example is continual hope in the living God is Job. Job was a righteous and noble man that faithfully loved and obeyed God (e.g., see Job 1:1, 8; Job 2:3). Because of Job’s love and faithfulness to God, Job was a wealthy and blessed man with a loving family filled with happiness and joy (Job 1:2-4; see also Psalm 128:1-2). Despite Job’s faithfulness and obedience, the living God allowed the evil one to test Job, and the evil one brought upon Job a series of disasters on his health, family, and wealth (see Job 1:9-12; Job 2:4-7). Despite Job’s testing and troubles by the evil one, Job never lost his faith and hope in the living God – His Redeemer (see Job 13:15; Job 19:25). Job valued his faith in the living God even above his own life! Because of Job’s continual hope and faithfulness to the living God, God blessed Job with twice the wealth, twice the possessions, and twice the family and Job died an old man with full of days (see Job 42:10-17).
The prophet Isaiah is one more example for trustful hope in the living God. The prophet Isaiah predicted the coming destruction of Israel’s southern kingdom Judah that eventually occurred 586 BC. Around 586 BC, the land of Judah was devastated by the Babylonian army, and the Jews were taken captive. Jerusalem lied in ruins (see 2 Kings 25:1-21) just as Israel northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians around 722 BC (see 2 Kings 17:7-23). However, the prophet Isaiah saw hope for Israel’s future! Beginning at Isaiah 40, the prophet Isaiah predicted future hope and joy for God’s people. The prophet Isaiah predicted Cyrus would arise to defeat the Babylonians and allow the Jews to return home to begin a fresh start (Isaiah 40 through Isaiah 48; see also Ezra 1:1-4). Even more, the prophet Isaiah predicted two further hopes for the future. The prophet Isaiah predicted the coming Messiah – the Lord Jesus, who would come as a Suffering Servant to bring redemption, forgiveness, and deliverance not only to the Jews but to the nations (see Isaiah 49 through Isaiah 55). Finally, in conclusion, the prophet Isaiah predicted a coming peace for all people in a new heaven and new earth when the Holy One of Israel – the living God – will rule as God of the whole earth.
Therefore, the prophet Isaiah encouraged everyone to always hope in the everlasting LORD God, who is the Creator of all the earth (Isaiah 40:28; see also Genesis 1:1-2; Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 42:5). The everlasting LORD God never grows tired, weak, nor weary, and He graciously gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (Isaiah 40:28-29; see also Genesis 18:14; Psalm 68:35; Jeremiah 31:25). The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that everyone who hopes and trusts in the LORD God will renew their strength and will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31; see also Psalm 37:9; Psalm 40:1).
The living God graciously gives everyone His eternal love, life, and mercies who humbly and patiently seek, depend upon, and love Him (Jeremiah 3:23, 25; e.g., see also Exodus 34:6-7; Deuteronomy 5:10; Deuteronomy 7:9; Nehemiah 1:5; Daniel 9:4; Amos 5:4-6). Even more, the faithful and loving God graciously responds with help and rescue when we wholeheartedly seek and ask Him (e.g., see Jeremiah 17:5-8; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:9-13; Luke 18:1-8). That is why the Lord Jesus Christ teaches that we should always pray and hope in the living God and never give up (Luke 18:1-8; see also Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Even during seasons of difficulty and hardship, the living God brings His discipline to produce right behavior, true living, and genuine worship that pleases Him (see Lamentations 3:38-42). The living God will never abandon nor leave you (Lamentations 3:31; see also Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5; Psalm 37:25; Matthew 28:20; 2 Corinthians 4:9 Hebrews 13:5-6).
For this reason, it is useless to place our hope in wealth (e.g., see Psalm 49:6-12; Psalm 52:6-7; Proverbs 11:4, 28; Jeremiah 9:23; Jeremiah 48:7); houses and possessions (e.g., see Isaiah 32:17-18; 1 Timothy 6:17-19); government leaders (e.g., see Psalm 118:9; Psalm 146:3; Jeremiah 17:5); empires and armies (e.g., 2 Kings 18:19-24; Isaiah 31:1-3); or even the Jerusalem Temple (e.g., see Jeremiah 7:1-7). The living God is our only hope, refuge, and strength (e.g., see Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18; Psalm 14:6; Psalm 18:2; Psalm 61:3; Psalm 62:2; Psalm 73:28; Psalm 91:9; Psalm 119:49-50; Isaiah 26:4; Romans 15:13). Even more, the living God has given believers hope in His Son, Jesus Christ (see 1 Pet. 1:3). The Lord Jesus Christ is our hope (see Colossians 1:27; 1 Timothy 1:1; Titus 2:13). Because in Jesus Christ the living God reconciled the world to Himself (see 2 Corinthians 5:19), hope in the Lord Jesus Christ is one with hope in His Father, the living God. Therefore, believers of God and His Son Jesus Christ can live in the present with confidence and face the future with whatever trials may come with courage and hope (e.g., see John 16:33; Romans 5:3-4; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Hebrews 6:19-20). Our hope is sure: we are on the victory side!
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
J.I. Packer. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1993).
Butler, Trent C. Holman Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991).
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
Saturday, December 23, 2017
15 Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and they were eager to know whether John (the Baptist) might be the Messiah. Luke 3:15
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! During the Christmas season, many people have a joyful hope and excitement, despite any external circumstances and troubles. That joyful hope is the Lord Jesus Christ! The Lord Jesus Christ is our eternal and blessed hope (Titus 2:13; see also 1 Timothy 6:17). Believers of the Lord Jesus Christ confidently look forward to His return to earth - the Lord Jesus’ second coming (e.g., see Titus 3:7; 1 John 3:2-3). Presently for believers of the Lord Jesus, He is our heart peace and hope of glory, despite any temporary earthly suffering and pain (Colossians 1:27; see also Romans 5:1-5).
In the first century, many Jews also eagerly looked forward to the coming of the Messiah (Christ). The Hebrew word “Messiah” is the equivalent of the Greek word “Christ,” which means “Anointed One.” For four centuries - the four hundred years of God’s silence after the Old Testament ended with the prophet Malachi, the Jews had waited and wondered when the long-awaited Messiah would arrive at earth. Then suddenly, stories began to spread about the birth of a special Baby Boy in Bethlehem! Moreover, some shepherds began spreading the news of a special Baby after seeing and hearing a glorious heavenly choir of angels announcing His birth as the Savior of the world (see Luke 2:8-20). Then, several wise men (also known as Magi) arrived from the eastern lands to Jerusalem seeking the Messiah and King after seeing a great star in the heavenly skies (see Matthew 2:1-6).
When John the Baptist first appeared, many of the Jewish religious leaders thought he was the long-awaited Messiah (e.g., see Luke 3:15; John 1:19-20). The Holy Scriptures predicted that when the Messiah comes, prophecy will reappear (e.g., see Joel 2:28-32; Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5). John the Baptist was obviously a great prophet. John the Baptist spoke like a great prophet as he boldly proclaimed the message of repentance - turning away from sin and turning wholeheartedly to the living God (e.g., see Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). However, John the Baptist confirmed to the Jewish religious leaders that he was not the Messiah, but the living God had sent him to prepare the world for the Messiah’s coming (see Matthew 3:3, 11-12; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 3:3-6, 16-17; John 1:6-8, 23, 29; see also Isaiah 40:3-5).
Many Jews expected the Messiah would be a military or political deliverer like King David that would finally defeat Israel’s enemies and usher in an era of peace and prosperity for God’s people. There was widespread hope among the first century Jews that a king from David’s line would come and re-establish David’s dynasty and reign in righteousness and justice on David’s throne in Jerusalem. This hope had its foundation in 2 Samuel 7:11-16 of the Old Testament, where the living LORD God promised King David that He would raise up descendants after him and establish his throne forever. With the decline and subsequent collapse of Israel as a kingdom, the Old Testament prophets predicted the coming of the Messiah and King, who would deliver God’s people and reign forever on David’s throne (e.g., see Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-5; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jeremiah 33:15-16; Ezekiel 37:24-25).
The Gospel writers Matthew and Luke take a special interest in showing that the Lord Jesus is truly the long-awaited and promised King from David’s family line and the Messiah (e.g., see Matthew 1:1, 16-17; Matthew 1:20; Matthew 2:2, 6-7; Luke 1:26-27, 32-33, 69-70; Luke 3:15-16). Instead arriving to earth with great fanfare as the long-awaited King and Messiah, the living LORD God sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus, as a poor Jewish baby in a rustic stable in Bethlehem (e.g., see Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-2, 5-8; Luke 2:4-7, 15-16; John 1:1-5, 14-18). This young Baby, who is King and Messiah, was also God with us and the Son of the living God (see Matthew 1:1, 21, 23; Matthew 16:16; Mark 1:1; John 20:31). The living LORD God sent His Son Jesus Christ to earth at just the right time to be God with us, our Emmanuel, to reveal Him and His eternal love for the world (Matthew 1:23; see also Isaiah 7:14; John 1:1-5, 14-18; John 3:16; Romans 9:5; Galatians 4:4; Colossians 1:15-20). In the Lord Jesus Christ, God came to earth and close to humans (e.g., see Hebrews 1:3). Thus, the Lord Jesus is fully God and fully Man, as the Son of the living God, as well as the long-awaited King from David’s family line and Messiah (Christ) (e.g., see Matthew 16:16; Mark 1:1; Luke 9:20; Luke 18:38; Luke 19:38; John 20:31; Romans 1:3-4).
In summary, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! During the Christmas season, we celebrate the Lord Jesus Christ! Jesus is the long-awaited and promised Messiah (Christ) who brings salvation and new life to all who trust and believe in Him as the Son of the living God (e.g., see Matthew 1:21, 23; Mark 14:61-62; Luke 2:10-11; John 3:16-17; John 4:42; 1 John 4:9-10, 14). Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures as the long-awaited King from the family line of David and Son of the living God that bring peace to earth (e.g., see Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 1:1; Matthew 2:2; Matthew 16:16; Mark 9:7; Luke 1:32-33; Luke 3:17; Revelation 22:6). Even more, Jesus is the new Israel that brings the living Lord God’s salvation to all who trust and believe in Him (see John 3:16)! One day the long-awaited Savior of the world will return in the clouds of heaven, and everyone will finally acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Lord of all (e.g., Acts 1:9-11; Acts 2:36; Philippians 2:10-11).
6 For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
1 At that time the Roman emperor, (Caesar) Augustus, decreed that a census (taxation, registration) should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria). 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census (taxation, registration). 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea (Judah), David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée (espoused or betroth wife), who was now obviously pregnant. 6 And while they were there (in Bethlehem), the time came for her Baby to be born. 7 She (Mary) gave birth to her first Child, a Son (Jesus). She wrapped Him snugly in strips of cloth (swaddling clothing) and laid Him in a manger, because there was no lodging (no room) available for them.
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 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 (shepherds). “Do not be afraid!” he said. “I bring you Good News that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior — yes, the Messiah (Christ, Anointed One), 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 (swaddling clothing), lying in a manger.” Luke 2:1-12 (NLT)
Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year! During the Christmas season, we celebrate the living LORD God Almighty graciously sending His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth to bring salvation and light to all people of the world (e.g., see Matthew 1:21, 23, Luke 2:10-11, 30; John 1:4; John 3:16-17). For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all humanity through the Lord Jesus Christ (e.g., see Ephesians 2:5, 8-9; Titus 2:11).
The details of the Lord Jesus Christ's birth are surprisingly scarce in the Holy Scriptures. The Gospels of Mark and John do not discuss the Lord Jesus Christ's birth. The Gospel of Matthew provides a few stories surrounding the Lord Jesus Christ's birth (see Matthew 1:18-25). Luke's message is the only Gospel to cover the actual birth of the Lord Jesus Christ (see Luke 2:1-20). Most Christmas pageants rely heavily on Luke's Gospel for Jesus' birth story. Also, only Luke's Gospel records a brief glimpse into the Lord Jesus' early years (see Luke 2:41-52). For this reason, many Biblical scholars believe Luke interviewed Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus, during his thorough investigation of Jesus' life (see Luke 1:1-4). Luke was not an eyewitness of Jesus' life, but Luke carefully interviewed many who were actually eyewitnesses of the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul's traveling companion, Luke probably met many eyewitnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In his Gospel, Luke wanted everyone to know that the long-awaited and promised Messiah of the Old Testament had some in the Lord Jesus (e.g., see Luke 1:32-33, 69-70)! The Lord Jesus' life, death, and resurrection confirm that He is truly the Messiah, and that He brings restoration, salvation, and forgiveness to all through faith and obedience in Him (e.g., see Luke 24:47; Romans 1:3-4).
At the time of the Lord Jesus Christ's birth, the Gospel writer Luke states that the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus issued a mandatory decree that a census be taken throughout the Roman Empire (see Luke 2:1-2). Some Biblical translations refer to this census as a registration or taxation. Everyone throughout the Roman Empire was required returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census (see Luke 2:3). Because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he was required to return to Bethlehem in Judea (Judah), David’s ancient home (Luke 2:4, 11; see also 1 Samuel 16:1; 1 Samuel 17:12, 15; 1 Samuel 20:6). Amazingly, the sovereign and living LORD God used the decree of Caesar Augustus to fulfill the prophecy of Micah 5:2. Many years earlier the Old Testament prophet Micah predicted a great Ruler would come from Bethlehem of the tribe of Judah (Micah 5:2; see also Matthew 2:2-6; John 7:42). Ultimately, the living God controls and orders the world and not humans!
Joseph traveled to Bethlehem from the small town of Nazareth in Galilee with Mary, his fiancée (see Luke 2:4-5). The virgin Mary was engaged and pledged to marry Joseph. Before Joseph and Mary came together sexually, Mary became pregnant with God's Son Jesus through God's Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18; 20-21, 23; Luke 1:26-27, 35; see also, Isaiah 7:14). Interestingly, the Lord Jesus' earthly parents, Joseph and Mary, were descendants of King David (see Matthew 1:16, 20; Luke 1:27; Luke 2:4; Luke 3:23); and therefore, fulfilling the prophecy that an eternal and righteous King will come from the family line of David (e.g., see 2 Samuel 7:11-16; Psalm 132:11-12; Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 1:1; Matthew 2:2; Luke 1:32-33). Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ was the Son of the living God through the power of the Holy Spirit (e.g., see Matthew 3:16-17; Matthew 16:16; Mark 1:1; Luke 1:32-33, 35; Luke 3:21-22; John 20:31), and also the long-awaited eternal King of Israel from the line of King David promised from the Old Testament (e.g., see Matthew 2:2; Matthew 27:11, 37; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:38; John 1:49; John 18:33-37). Even more, the Lord Jesus Christ was God incarnate (human flesh) who appeared in human form and the Word of God (e.g., see Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:21, 23, John 1:1-5,14; Romans 9:5; Philippians 2:6, 8). Furthermore, Jesus Christ is the long-awaited Messiah predicted by the Old Testament prophets (e.g., Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-5). Jesus is truly a wonderful Child!
At the time of the census, Mary was now obviously pregnant with the Baby Jesus (see Luke 2:5). While in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor and the time came for her Baby to be born (see Luke 2:6). Mary gave birth to her first Child, the Lord Jesus, and she wrapped the Baby Jesus snugly in strips of cloth or swaddling clothing, and laid Him tenderly in a manger (some translations say feeding trough for animals) because there was no lodging available for them in the Bethlehem inn (see Luke 2:7). Amazingly, the greatest miracle in world history, the eternal Son of the living God being born as a Baby, happened in a remote stable of the small town of Bethlehem!
On the night of the Lord Jesus Christ's birth in Bethlehem, there were some shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep (see Luke 2:8). Then suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among the shepherds, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded these shepherds (see Luke 2:9). Upon seeing the angel of the Lord, the shepherds were frighten and terrified (see Luke 2:9). However, the angel of the Lord reassured and comforted these terrified shepherds and said, “Do not be afraid” (see Luke 2:10). Fear was a common reaction to angelic appearances and encouragement was needed (see also Luke 1:13).
Throughout the birth narrative of the Lord Jesus Christ, an angel of the Lord appears with news from heaven (e.g., see Matthew 1:20, 24; Matthew 2:13,19; Luke 1:11, Luke 2:9). The angel of the Lord is identified as Gabriel (see Luke 1:19, 26). The Hebrew name for angel is "messenger." Gabriel's ministry assignment involves proclaiming special messages concerning God's plans (e.g., see Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21). In the Holy Scriptures, Gabriel and Michael are the only angels named.
Then, the angel of the Lord announced the greatest news of the Lord Jesus’s birth by declaring, “I bring you Good News that will bring great joy to all people” (see Luke 2:10, NLT). Yes, all people of the world! Regardless of our nationality, race, religion, culture, sexual category, or financial status, the living LORD God sent His only begotten Son to give salvation to the world through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection (e.g., see Matthew 1:21, 23; Luke 1:68, Luke 2:11, 21, 30-32; John 4:42; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 John 4:14-16). The Lord Jesus Christ was not intended for Israel alone but for the whole world and among all nations - Jews and Gentiles (Luke 2:32; see also Matthew 1:21; Matthew 28:18-20; John 4:42; Philippians 2:9-11)! This is truly Good News (Gospel) that the Savior of the World has come (e.g., see John 3:16; Acts 5:31; 1 John 4:9-10). Jesus Christ is our Savior!
The angel of the Lord announced to these shepherds that the Savior and the Messiah (also known as Christ or the Anointed One), the Lord had been born in the small town of Bethlehem (Luke 2:11; see also Micah 5:2; Matthew 1:16, 21, 23; John 7:42; John 11:27; Acts 2:36). Three titles were given to Jesus in the angel's announcement: Savior, Messiah, and Lord (Luke 2:11; see also Luke 1:69; Acts 5:31, 42; Acts 13:23; Acts 17:3). These titles of Jesus proclaim His greatness - He is fully God and fully human (see also Galatians 4:4-5; Philippians 2:7). The Hebrew word "Messiah," is the equivalent of the Greek word "Christ," which means "Anointed One." Moreover, the angel of the Lord told the shepherds that they will recognize the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by a special sign: "You will find a Baby wrapped snugly in swaddling clothing, lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12; see also Isaiah 7:14).
Then suddenly, the angel of the Lord was joined by a multitude of heavenly hosts — the armies of heaven — praising God (see Luke 2:13). In other words, there were thousands of heavenly angels celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ! These multitude of heavenly angels sang, "Glory to God in highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all men" (Luke 2:13-14; see also Revelation 5:11). This brief hymn is called Gloria in Excelsis Deo. Through our faith and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, we have peace and reconciliation with the living LORD God - the Father of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (e.g., see Romans 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17-19; Colossians 1:20). The Lord Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:6; Ephesians 2:14, 17), and He has promised this peace to His disciples, who trust and obey Him (e.g., see Isaiah 26:3, 12; John 14:27; John 16:33; Acts 10:36; Philippians 4:7). The peace Jesus Christ gives is a peace of mind and soul!
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about” (see Luke 2:15). The shepherds made haste and hurried to the small town of Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph with Baby Jesus lying in the manger (Luke 2:16; see also Luke 2:7, 12). After seeing the Lord Jesus Christ, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this most wonderful Child (see Luke 2:17). Everyone who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished and amazed (see Luke 2:18). The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen just as the angel of the Lord had told them (see Luke 2:20).
Then, Joseph and Mary took the Baby Jesus eight days after His birth to the Temple in Jerusalem (see Luke 2:21). On that eighth day, the Lord Jesus Christ was circumcised and officially named Jesus (Luke 2:21; see also Genesis 17:9-11; Leviticus 12:3). The name Jesus was previously given to his earthly parents Joseph and Mary by the angel Gabriel even before the Lord Jesus was conceived in Mary's womb (Luke 2:21; see also Matthew 1:21, 25; Luke 1:31). Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means "the Lord saves" or "the Lord is salvation." The living LORD God, who is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, has exalted His Son to the highest place and given Him the Name that is above every name (see Philippians 2:9). One day at the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, every knee should bow and every tongue will confess and worship that He is Lord of all (see Philippians 2:10-11)!
Next the Baby Jesus was presented and dedicated to the LORD God as required by the Law of Moses (Luke 2:22-23, 27; see also Galatians 4:4). The account of Luke 2:21-40 reveals Joseph and Mary's obedience and faithfulness to the living LORD God. The Law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the LORD” (see Luke 2:23). The firstborn of both people and animals are to be dedicated to the living God for service and worship (see also Exodus 13:1-2, 12). Also, the Law of Moses required that after the birth of a child both the mother must be purified and the new baby must be dedicated to the Lord. So, Joseph and Mary took their newborn Baby to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (Luke 2:22; see also Leviticus 12:1-4).
Then, Joseph and Mary offered the sacrifice required in the Law of the Lord — “either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:24; see also Leviticus 5:11; Leviticus 12:6-8). In the Law of the Lord, a woman had the option of offering to the LORD God a lamb or in the alternative two doves or two young pigeons, if she could not afford a lamb, for atonement for her sins (see Leviticus 12:6-8). The fact the Mary offered not a lamb but a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons indicated Mary was poor and not well-off (see Luke 2:24).
Thus, at least three ceremonies were required after the birth of a child. First, a circumcision was to take place on the eighth day after a son's birth after the mother's seven days of ceremonial uncleanness (see Leviticus 12:1-3). The newborn child was normally given a name at this point. Second, a ceremony was involved with the presentation and dedication of the firstborn son to the LORD God. As it is written in the Law of the LORD God, every firstborn male that opens the womb must be set apart and dedicated and called holy to the LORD God (see Exodus 13:1-2, 12; Numbers 8:17). Then finally, there was the purification of the mother, celebrated forty days after a son's birth or eighty days after having a daughter (see Leviticus 12:1-8).
While at the Temple in Jerusalem, a man named Simeon approached Joseph and Mary with the Baby Jesus (see Luke 2:27-28). Simeon was a righteous and devout, as he carefully and cautiously observed the divine Law of the Lord and the Holy Spirit was upon him (see Luke 2:25). Also, Simeon was eagerly waiting for the Messiah (Christ, Anointed One of God, and Word of God) with His salvation to come and rescue (redeem) Israel - consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25-26, 30, 38; see also Isaiah 40:1; Isaiah 61:2). Then, the Holy Spirit of God divinely revealed to Simeon that he would not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah (see Luke 2:26). As the Lord Jesus underwent His ceremonies at the Temple, the Holy Spirit prompted and led Simeon to Mary and Joseph presenting the Baby Jesus to the Lord as the Law required (see Luke 2:27). Simeon took the Baby Jesus into his arms and praised God, saying,
Sovereign Lord, now let Your servant to leave this world and die in peace, as You have promised. I have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared for all people. He (Jesus) is a Light to reveal God to the nations, and He is the glory of Your people Israel. Luke 2:28-32; see also Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 46:13; Isaiah 49:6, 9; Isaiah 52:10; John 8:12; Acts 26:23.
Upon hearing Simeon's confession, Joseph and Mary were amazed at what Simeon was saying about their Baby Jesus (see Luke 2:33). Simeon was careful to point out to Joseph and Mary that their Lord Jesus Christ brings salvation to all people and all nations, and not just the Jews (see Luke 2:31-32). Then Simeon blessed Joseph, Mary, and the Baby Jesus (see Luke 2:34). However, Simeon warned Mary,
This Child is appointed and destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but He will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose Him. As a result, the deepest and secret thoughts of many hearts will be revealed and disclosed. And a sword will pierce your very soul. Luke 2:34-35; see also Isaiah 8:14-15; Matthew 21:44; 1 Corinthians 1:23-24; 2 Corinthians 2:16; 1 Peter 2:8-9.
Next, a prophetess named Anna, who was a widow, approach Joseph and Mary with their Baby Jesus. Anna also faithfully worshipped and served the living God like Simeon at the Temple (see Luke 2:36-37). Anna came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God (see Luke 2:38). The prophetess Anna talked about the Baby Jesus to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for the living God to redeem and rescue Jerusalem (Luke 2:38; see also Luke 1:68; Luke 2:25).
At the time of the Lord Jesus Christ's birth, the people of Israel were oppressed by the Roman government and longed for the promised Messiah (see Luke 3:15). Many Jews anticipated the Messiah (Christ) would be a military hero like King David and deliver Israel from Roman oppression as promised from the Old Testament (e.g., see 2 Samuel 7:11-16). Instead, the living LORD God sent His only begotten Son the Lord Jesus Christ as a Jewish Baby to the small town of Bethlehem as predicted by the prophet Micah (see Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1, 4-6; Luke 2:4-7, 11). The Lord Jesus Christ was full of His Father's Spirit, grace, and truth (see John 1:14). All who accept and believe the Lord Jesus Christ become wise children of His Father and receive eternal salvation (see John 1:12-13; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9). Santa cannot save you but Jesus can!
When Joseph and Mary had fulfilled all the requirements of the Law of the Lord, they returned to their own town, Nazareth in Galilee (Luke 2:39; see also Matthew 2:23; Luke 1:26; Luke 2:4). Luke's Gospel does not mention the coming of the wise men (Magi) from the eastern lands, the danger from Herod, or the flight to Egypt (see Matthew 2:1-23). In Nazareth, the young Jesus grew up healthy and strong, and He was filled with wisdom, and God’s grace (favor and spiritual blessings) was on Him (Luke 2:40, 51-52; see Luke 4:16; 1 Corinthians 1:24).
Jesus spent His childhood in Galilee, in the small town of Nazareth. Except for festival times when the Lord Jesus Christ traveled to Jerusalem, Jesus showed a marked preference for small towns and rural areas, especially in the remote northern region of Galilee. The New Testament explicitly identifies Jesus as “the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:11; see also Mark 1:24; Luke 18:37; John 19:19). Some may question can anything good come out of Nazareth (see John 1:46). The answer is yes! The Savior of the World came out of Nazareth – the Lord Jesus Christ!
Amplified Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987).
ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
The King James Study Bible (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, 2011).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Monday, December 11, 2017
1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea (Judah), during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men (Gentile astrologers, Magi) from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw His star as it rose, and we have come to worship Him.” 3 King Herod was deeply disturbed (troubled) when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.
4 He (Herod) called a meeting of the leading (chief) priests and teachers of religious law (scribes) and asked, “Where is the Messiah (Christ) supposed to be born?” 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: 6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least (insignificant) among the ruling (chief) cities of Judah, for a Ruler (Leader) will come from you who will be the Shepherd for My people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called for a private (secret) meeting with the wise men (Gentile astrologers, Magi), and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared (in the east). 8 Then he (Herod) told them (wise men), “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the Child. And when you find Him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship Him, too!”
9 After this interview, the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided (went before) them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the Child with His mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had (divinely) warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. Matthew 2:1-12 (NLT)
Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year! During the Christmas season, we celebrate the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah and King coming to earth in the Babe, the Lord Jesus. For centuries, everyone in the whole world – Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) – were awaiting the arrival of the Messiah (also known as Christ) and the great King of the World. The Old Testament prophecies predicted the coming of the Messiah (Christ) and a great King from the family line of King David, who was Israel’s greatest king (e.g., see 2 Samuel 7:11-16; Isaiah 7:14-16; Isaiah 9:1-7; Micah 5:2). With the arrival of the Babe Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah and King had come (e.g., see Matthew 1:1, 17; Matthew 2:2; Luke 1:32-33, 69; Luke 2:4-7)! At the Lord Jesus' birth, the earth and heavens celebrated and worshiped the newborn King and Messiah with great joy and excitement - the heavenly angels, shepherds, the Gentile wise men, Simeon, and the prophetess Anna (see also, Luke 2:8-38).
The Lord Jesus was born in the small town of Bethlehem located five miles south of Jerusalem (Matthew 2:1; see also Luke 2:4-7, 15). Bethlehem was in Judah, also known as Judea, in the southern land of Israel (see Matthew 2:6). Many years earlier the Old Testament prophet Micah predicted a great Ruler would come from Bethlehem of the tribe of Judah (see Micah 5:2). Bethlehem was the also the birthplace of King David, Israel greatest and most respected king (see 1 Samuel 16:1; 1 Samuel 17:12, 15; Luke 2:4, 11; John 7:42).
At the time of the Lord Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, wicked Herod was king in the Judea region (Matthew 2:1; see also Luke 1:5). He was born into an Idumean family, who were descendants of Esau (Edom). Herod was an able and strong man, but he was evil, very cruel, and ruthless as well as mentally unstable. He permitted no one, not even his own family, to interfere with his kinship. In fact, historians discovered that Herod had his wife and her two brothers killed because he suspected them of treason. Moreover, historians reported that Herod was married at least nine times. Nonetheless, Herod increased greatly the splendor of Jerusalem by erecting the Temple that was the center of Jewish worship at the time of our Lord Jesus’ birth. Herod ruled from 37 to 4 BC, so many scholars believe the Lord Jesus was born about 6 BC.
After the Lord Jesus’s glorious birth, some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem (see Matthew 2:1). These wise men, also called Magi, were Gentile astrologers from the east. No one knows much about these wise men because the Biblical text does not give much background. The Holy Scriptures do not state where the wise men came from or how many there were. Many biblical scholars believe these Gentile wise men were from Parthia, near the site of ancient Babylon, later known as the Persian Empire. In addition, tradition says that there were three wise men, and they were kings, but we do not know that with certainty. Nonetheless, the Gentile wise men were seeking the newborn King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2; see also Matthew 27:11, 37; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:38; John 1:49; John 18:33-37). Thus, many biblical scholars believe Herod was threatened when the wise men asked about a newborn King of the Jews (see Matthew 2:2).
From the Old Testament, the prophets had repeatedly predicted the living LORD God would rise up a King from David’s family line (e.g., see 2 Samuel 7:11-16; Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jeremiah 30:9, 21; Ezekiel 34:23; Zechariah 9:9; John 7:41-42). King David was one of Israel’s greatest kings who faithfully loved the LORD God, and the Lord Jesus was his descendant (e.g., see 1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Kings 15:3; Matthew 1:1; Matthew 9:27; Acts 13:22-23; Romans 1:3-4). Although David fell into grievous sins with Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11:1-27), David repented of his sins, and he never turned his allegiance from wholehearted devotion to the living LORD God (e.g., see 2 Samuel 12:13; Psalms 51). King David enjoyed God's favor because of his love and faithfulness the LORD God (see Acts 7:46). Because of David's love and faithfulness, the living LORD God promised David that He would rise a wise and righteous King from his family line that will shepherd, love, and protect God’s people (see 2 Samuel 7:11-16). Since this prediction, the prophets anticipated the arrival of the Great King from the family line of David (e.g., see Psalm 89:3-4). The New Testament book of Matthew opens with the grand announcement that the long-awaited Great King has finally come in the Person of Jesus (see Matthew 1:1, 17; Luke 1:32-33, 69). The Lord Jesus' earthly parents, Joseph and Mary, were both from the family line of David (e.g., see Matthew 1:16, 20; Luke 1:26-27).
When the Lord Jesus finally arrived to earth in a modest stable, the heavenly skies were filled with singing angels (see Luke 2:9-14). Clearly, something was brewing on planet Earth! Among the dreary villagers in a remote corner of the Roman Empire, something climatically good was bursting out from Bethlehem that would change the whole world. The Lord Jesus' birth literally split history into two parts, and we memorialized this event whenever we write a date, B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (after Christ). Even now, almost 2,000 years later, the celebration of the Lord Jesus' birth still causes great joy (see Luke 2:10-14)! During the Christmas season, we celebrate the remarkable moment when God in human flesh had come to earth as a Babe in the small town of Bethlehem (see Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 1:23; John 1:1,14).
To announce the arrival of the Great King, the living LORD God, who is the Father of the Lord Jesus, gave a special sign. This special sign was a miraculous star that announced the birth of the Messiah and King, the Lord Jesus (Matthew 2:2; see also Revelation 22:16). The Gentile wise men saw the King’s great and special star in the east at its rising, and they came to worship the true King not only of the Jews but the world (see Matthew 2:2, 9). Amazingly, these Gentile wise men sensed God’s guidance to Bethlehem and followed the great star of the Lord Jesus. Scientific scholars have offered various explanations for the unique star's appearance at the birth of the Lord Jesus such as the joining of planets Mars, Saturn and Jupiter around 7 BC or perhaps the appearance of a comet in 5 BC. However, the Old Testament had predicted a star would appear at the coming of the Great King (see Numbers 24:17). The living LORD God used His heavenly creation to introduce His eternal Son the Lord Jesus to earth. The Lord Jesus’ great star led the Gentile wise men to the small town of Bethlehem located five miles south of Jerusalem.
Keep in mind that these wise men were Gentiles. From the very beginning, the Lord Jesus came to be “the Savior of the world” to save the world from sin through faith in Him (e.g., see Matthew 1:21, 23; John 1:29; John 3:16-17; John 4:42; 1 John 4:14). On the first Christmas night, the heavenly angel announced the Good News and source of joy for all the people (see Luke 2:10, 32). Yes, all people! Regardless of our nationality, race, religion, culture, sexual category, or financial status, the living LORD God sent His only begotten Son to be born in Bethlehem to save and redeem the world from sin through faith in Him (e.g., see Luke 1:68, Luke 2:11, 21, 30-32; John 4:42; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 John 4:14-16). The Lord Jesus was not intended for Israel alone but for the whole world and among all nations (see also Matthew 28:18-20; Philippians 2:9-11)!
Upon hearing the news of another King, evil Herod was deeply disturbed, as was everyone in Jerusalem (see Matthew 2:3). Therefore, evil Herod called a meeting of the leading chief priests and teachers of religious law and asked them, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born” (see Matthew 2:5, NLT). The leading priests and teachers of religious law informed evil Herod of the Old Testament prophecies from Micah 5:2 that the Messiah and King would be born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:5; see also Numbers 24:19; 2 Samuel 5:2; John 7:42). The prophet Micah from the Old Testament wrote: “And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a Ruler will come from you who will be the Shepherd for My people Israel” (Matthew 2:6, quoting Micah 5:2, 4).
Afterwards, evil Herod called for a secret meeting with the Gentile wise men, and Herod learned from them the exact time when the Lord Jesus’ star first appeared in the heavens (see Matthew 2:7). Then evil Herod deceptively told the Gentile wise men, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the Child and when you find Him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship Him, too” (see Matthew 2:8, NLT).
After this secret meeting with evil Herod, the Gentile wise men went their way seeking the true and great King of the World (see Matthew 2:9). Finally, the Lord Jesus’ star the wise men had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem and stopped over the exact place where the young Child lived with His earthly parents, Joseph and Mary (see Matthew 2:9). When the Gentile wise men saw the Lord Jesus’ star over His earthly home, they were filled with great joy, happiness, and excitement (see Matthew 2:10)! The Magi traveled thousands of miles to see the true King! By now, Joseph had moved Mary and the Lord Jesus from the temporary stable where the Lord Jesus had been born into a local house in Bethlehem (see Luke 2:7, 16). Thus, the traditional manger and stable scene that assembles the shepherds and wise men are not true to the Holy Scriptures, since the Gentile wise men arrived much later.
Then, the wise men entered Joseph and Mary’s house and saw the young Child, and they bowed down and worshiped Him with great joy (see Matthew 2:11). Truly, these Gentile wise men and many others knew this young Child was the long-awaited Messiah and King of the World! At that moment, the wise men opened their treasure chests and gave the Messiah and King gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh (see Matthew 2:11). The early church fathers understood the gold to be symbolic of the Lord Jesus' kingship, the frankincense of His holiness, and the myrrh of His coming death (since myrrh was used for embalming).
Upon their departure, the living LORD God divinely warned the wise men through a dream not to return to evil Herod but return to their own country by another route (see Matthew 2:12). Moreover, the LORD God sent a heavenly angel to warn Joseph in a dream to take the Lord Jesus and His mother Mary and flee to Egypt (see Matthew 2:13). Sadly, evil Herod had implemented a search for the Child to murder Him (see Matthew 2:13). The wise men and Joseph's divine dreams confirmed the LORD God's power over human rulers and His ability and commitment to His Child, the Lord Jesus. Even more, the whole episode is a good example of how the LORD God leads, guides, and protects His people.
The Lord Jesus along with Joseph and Mary stayed in Egypt until evil Herod’s death (see Matthew 2:15). Jesus' departure to Egypt fulfilled what the living LORD God had spoken through His prophet: “I called My Son out of Egypt” (Matthew 2:15; see also, Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1). Nationally, Israel was the LORD God's "son" (e.g., see Exodus 4:22; Romans 9:4-5). However, the Lord Jesus was the living LORD God's greater "Son" (e.g., see John 1:18; John 3:16).
When evil Herod heard the Lord Jesus along with the wise men had fled, he became furious (see Matthew 2:16). The Magi's news troubled Herod because he knew that the Jewish people expected the Messiah to come soon (Luke 3:15). Most Jews expected the Messiah to be a great military and political deliverer, like Alexander the Great. Evil Herod sent soldiers to kill all young boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the Gentile wise men’s report of the Lord Jesus star’s first appearance (see Matthew 2:16). No wonder evil Herod ordered all the baby boys in Bethlehem murdered (see Matthew 2:13, 16-18). Evil Herod alone wanted to bear the title "King of the Jews" even though he deceptively informed the wise men that he wanted to the Child (see Matthew 2:8). Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what the living God had spoken through His prophet Jeremiah: “A cry was heard in Ramah — weeping and great mourning, and Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead” (Matthew 2:17-18, quoting Jeremiah 31:15).
After evil Herod’s death, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph while in Egypt and instructed Joseph to return the Lord Jesus along with His mother Mary back to Israel (see Matthew 2:19-20). However, when Joseph returned to Israel, he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s evil son Archelaus (see Matthew 2:21-22). Historians have noted that Archelaus was just as cruel, evil, and ruthless as his father, Herod. Once again, the living God divinely warned Joseph in a dream to turn away from Judah and to into Galilee, which is located in northern Israel (see Matthew 2:22). In the region of Galilee, Joseph returned to Nazareth with Mary and the Child Jesus (see Matthew 2:23). Jesus grew up in the small town of Nazareth – the hometown of Joseph and Mary (see Mark 1:9; Mark 6:1; Luke 2:39, 51-52; Luke 4:16, 23; John 1:45-46)). Even more, Joseph's return to Nazareth also fulfilled another Old Testament prophecy that the Messiah would be called a "Nazarene" (see Matthew 2:23). The term "Nazarene" was applied both to Jesus and His followers (see Acts 24:5); and the Lord Jesus was often called "Jesus of Nazareth" (e.g., see Matthew 21:11; Matthew 26:71; Mark 14:67; Luke 2:39; John 18:5, 7).
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