Advent: The Song of Christ’s Humility.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

Humility is defined as counting other people as more significant than you (Romans 12:10; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 5:21; I Peter 3:5). The attribute of humility which was so clearly evidenced at the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ is also to be seen within each believer who is in union with Christ. The reason for the demeanor of humility is due in no small part to the blessings God has given to each believer in Christ.

One of the greatest blessings God the Father has provided the church is the example of Jesus Christ’s humility. It’s one thing to talk about humility. It’s another entirely to live and demonstrate this godly characteristic. We are to live humble lives before God and other people. Our example of such a lifestyle is Jesus Christ.

Believers in Christ are to have the mind of humility. This is set forth in today’s text which is one of the classic passages of Christology found in the New Testament. It may well have been sung as a hymn in the early church. It would benefit the church today to sing such a hymn, and often.

To begin with, the Apostle Paul issued forth a command from God: “Have this mind among yourselves.” The statement is an imperative and a non-negotiable belong to and originating from God. Believers are to have the attitude of humility. The phrase “have this mind” takes the reader back to the immediate preceding context of Philippians 2:1-4.

The disposition or attitude of humility is not to be held in isolation but rather it is to be demonstrated among believers in Christ. That’s why Paul said, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” It is to be evidenced among the members of the church. This is because humility was evidenced and demonstrated by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. Jesus is our example of humility.

Pastor Burk Parsons writes, “The author of Hebrews writes, “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:1–2). As we grow in the grace and holiness of our Lord, being enabled by God’s free grace to die more and more unto sin and live unto righteousness, we’re called neither to fix our eyes on ourselves nor to fix our eyes on our own sins that entangle themselves around our ankles. We’re called to run with endurance by looking to Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith. We are united to Christ and are made able and willing to turn our eyes upon Jesus — away from ourselves — so that by looking to Him, we are motivated to joyful, cross-bearing obedience as we “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him . . . for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Col. 1:10–11). For when we take our eyes off our Lord and set our eyes on ourselves, the Christian life becomes not only miserable but impossible.”

Ask God today to develop within your soul the attitude and actions demonstrating Christ-like humility. It is what it means to be like Jesus.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Advent: The Humility of Christ.

Philippians 2:1-11 says, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The attribute of humility, which was so clearly evidenced at the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ, is also to be seen within each believer who is in union with Christ. The reason for the demeanor of humility is due in no small part to the blessings God has given to each believer in Christ. What are these blessings?

To begin with, there is the believer’s encouragement in Christ. The word encouragement (παράκλησις; paraklesis) means to come alongside with help, counsel and exhortation. This is what Jesus does for each believer.

Second, there is the believer’s comfort from love. Comfort (παραμύθιον; paramythion) also means to encourage. The image is of Christ coming close to His disciples and whispering gentle and tender counseling words. This tenderness is rooted solely in the sacrificial love of God prompted by His grace.

Third, there is the believer’s participation in the Spirit. The word Spirit refers to the Holy Spirit. Participation (κοινωνία; koinonia) refers to a partnership of eternal life which God provides through the regeneration and indwelling ministry and presence of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s soul (I Corinthians 3:16; 12:1-13; 2 Corinthians 13:1-14; I John 1:4-6).

Fourth, there is the believer’s experience of God’s affection and His sympathy. Affection (σπλάγχνον; splanchnon) means to feel compassion. Sympathy (οἰκτιρμός; oiktirmos) means to show compassion. Since God demonstrated affection and sympathy to rebellious sinners such as us, then it stands to reason that we are to show the same to fellows believer’s in Christ. This is the Apostle Paul’s conclusion in vs. 2 when he writes, “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

Believers, while different, are to think the same way regarding their treatment of each other. We are to demonstrate the same love which God demonstrated towards us (Romans 8:5-10).

The apostle’s concern for the church was that she should demonstrate a unity among believers. There should be no divisions while at the same there is to be a commitment to biblical truth. God’s Word must never be sacrificed for the sake of sentimentalism within the church. God’s Word should also never be sacrificed due to disagreements within the church.

How are believers to accomplish this unity among each other? Paul states that it begins with the biblical attitude of humility which is described in vs. 3. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” There is to be no pushing to have one’s own way, no desire for personal glory, but rather humility. Humility is defined as counting other people as more significant than you (Romans 12:10; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 5:21; I Peter 3:5).

In fact, in vs. 4 Paul goes on to say, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  This is not a directive to be a busybody but rather to genuinely care for one’s fellow believer.

Who provides the greatest example of humility? Jesus Christ, of course. When next we meet, we will see exactly how Jesus Christ demonstrated biblical humility. The description provides the church with one of its foremost hymns of praise.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Advent: Two Biblical Christmas Carols of the Christ.

There is arguably no other American annual holiday that is as dominated by music as Christmas. From Thanksgiving to December 25, secular along with sacred music can be heard from seemingly every source imaginable.

From amateur presentations at elementary, middle and high schools, to professional concerts featuring symphonic orchestras, along with background music in stores of all shapes, sizes and products, the sounds of the season are everywhere.

And let us not overlook the various programs and cantatas that many churches annually conduct which serves to brighten up the holiday season. My church, Headwaters Church in Fort Wayne, IN, will be presenting The Carols of Christmas this upcoming Sunday, December 15 at the Purdue Fort Wayne Campus. I am so looking forward to singing in the choir and being a part of this festive Christmas musical. 

The Scriptures are not silent when it comes to worship regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ. We have already examined the various praises by Zechariah, Mary, the angels, Simeon and Anna. However, there are also two hymns written by the Apostle Paul which contain some of the most significant theology regarding Jesus Christ the Lord.

These two hymns are found in Philippians 2:1-11 and Colossians 1:15-23. While both focus their attention on Jesus Christ, their themes are noticeably different. Philippians stresses the humiliation of the Lord Jesus while Colossians emphasizes the eternality and exaltation of the Christ. Both contribute volumes of truth regarding the reason for the incarnation of the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity.

Philippians 2:1-11 says, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Colossians 1:15-20 says, 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

For the next several days, we will take the opportunity to examine both passages in detail. In so doing, my prayer is that we will all take away some important truths about Jesus that we never knew or understood as clearly. Merry Christmas. 

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

 

  

 

 

Advent: The Return to Nazareth.

19 “But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:19–23 ESV).

We do not know how long Joseph, Mary and Jesus remained in Egypt following King Herod’s slaughter of the boy children in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. We do know that it was around 4 B.C. because that is historically when Herod the Great died.

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. The purpose was for God’s messenger to give Joseph new revelation in light of the king’s death.

The angel said to Joseph, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.” The young family’s sojourn was over.

However, when Joseph heard that Herod’s son, Archelaus, was reigning over Judea he was afraid to go there and settle. Perhaps this was because Archelaus was as evil as his father.

One commentary writes that, “Archelaus was Herod’s son by Malthace, a Samaritan woman. He was educated along with his brother Antipas at Rome. He inherited from his father a third part of his kingdom viz., Idumea, Judea, and Samaria, and hence is called “king” (Matt. 2:22). It was for fear of him that Joseph and Mary turned aside on their way back from Egypt. Till a few days before his death Herod had named Antipas as his successor, but in his last moments he named Archelaus”

Once again, God warned Joseph in a dream to not dwell in Judea but rather to settle in the district of Galilee. Joseph, Mary and Jesus began living in a small town called Nazareth. God the Father’s providence is evident because settling in Nazareth would fulfill the Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah 53:1-3 which described the Messiah as despised and rejected. Most people from Nazareth were despised and rejected. See John 1:43-51.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Nazareth, an obscure town 70 miles north of Jerusalem, was a place of lowly reputation, and nowhere mentioned in the OT. Some have suggested that “Nazarene” is a reference to the Hebrew word for branch in Isa. 11:1. Others point out that Matthew’s statement that “prophets” had made this prediction may be a reference to verbal prophecies nowhere recorded in the OT. A still more likely explanation is that Matthew is using “Nazarene” as a synonym for someone who is despised or detestable— for that was how people from the region were often characterized (cf. John 1:46). If that is the case, the prophecies Matthew has in mind would include Ps. 22:6–8Isa. 49:7; 53:3.”

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Note how the evangelist (Matthew) has taught us about God’s providence. First, we should see that Herod’s hatred of Jesus and slaughter of the young boys in Bethlehem (vv. 16–18) parallel Pharaoh’s attempt to kill Moses (Ex. 1:8–2:10). Moses was the mediator of the old covenant, and in ordaining the circumstances of the birth of Christ to be so similar to Moses’ birth, our Father has prepared His people to receive Jesus as a new and greater Moses, the mediator of a new and better covenant (Heb. 7:22).”

“Secondly, the dreams of warning that Joseph and the magi experience (Matt. 2:12–1319–2022) show that God has sovereignly overruled man’s attempt to destroy His Son. Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus has been unsuccessful. In fact, it is Herod who dies (in 4 B.C., dating the Savior’s birth therefore between 6 and 4 B.C.), enabling Joseph and his family to return to Palestine (v. 21). After learning that Archelaus is ruling in Judea, Joseph takes Jesus and Mary to Nazareth in Galilee (v. 22). This is wise, for Archelaus could be as ruthless as his father Herod and might very well be a threat to Jesus.”

As we have seen, God the Father was in complete control of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth and early childhood. He is also in complete control of our own lives. May each of us rest in God’s sovereign providence.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

Advent: Rachel Weeping for her Children.

17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:17–18 ESV)

When we began this study of the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus, otherwise known as the Advent Season, we initially examined the many prophecies regarding the identity of the Jewish Messiah. We sought to see whether or not Jesus Christ fulfilled those prophecies. With respect to the Messiah’s incarnation, we saw the Jesus Christ indeed did fulfill those prophecies.

One prophecy which took place following Jesus’ birth, perhaps some two years after, is what is referred to as the slaughter of the innocents. This was when King Herod decided that all boys within Bethlehem, and the surrounding area, would be killed in hopes that Jesus would be included in the slaughter. Herod was known for eliminating any real, or suspected rivals or usurpers to his throne. He included Jesus in that category.

The prophecy concerning this mass killing of children is found in Jeremiah 31:15. It is the text from which Matthew quotes. Within the immediate context of the Prophet Jeremiah, the prophecy had to do with the impending Babylonian Captivity of the Jews which occurred in 586 B.C., following two others invasions occurring in 605 B.C. and 597 B.C. The wailing which occurred then prefigured the wailing which occurred some 500 years later by many mothers over their slaughtered children by the orders of King Herod.

Ramah was a city located north of Jerusalem. The possible reason why Matthew mentioned it was because it was the city in which the Jewish exiles returned from the Babylonian captivity after 70 years (Ezra 2:26; Neh. 7:30; 11:33). Additionally, Ramah was another traditional site of Rachel’s burial. Rachel, the beloved wife of the Patriarch Jacob, was considered by many to be the mother of the Nation of Israel. That is why she was seen weeping over these children’s deaths.

One commentator explains that, “Jeremiah 31:15 refers to the figurative weeping of Rachel, who was buried in Bethlehem (Gen 35:19). Jeremiah said she mourned for her descendants carried off into captivity during the Babylonian exile. Like righteous Jeremiah, Jesus was carried off to Egypt, but Rachel had cause to mourn anew at Herod’s murder of her people.”

 Dr. R. C. Sproul writes that, “Matthew’s use of this prophecy appears to portray Jesus as the new Moses (the one who led Joseph’s descendants out of Egypt) who fulfills the prophecy of the second Exodus. Like Moses, Jesus escapes the slaughter as an infant. Like Moses, He is sent to rescue God’s chosen ones.”  

 God has a purpose in everything He sovereignly permits. This is true even when we human followers of Christ do not understand, or even like, what God chooses to do.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Advent: The Killing of the Children.

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.” (Matthew 2:16 (ESV)

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” This proverb is adapted from a line in the play The Mourning Bride, by William Congreve, an English author of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The quotation means that no one is angrier than a woman who has been rejected in love.

A parallel proverb could well be “Hell hath no fury like a king who is tricked.” Proverbs 19:12 says, A king’s wrath is like the growling of a lion.”

When King Herod discovered and discerned that the Magi would not return to Jerusalem to inform him of Jesus’ whereabouts, he became furious. The word furious (λίαν; lian) means exceedingly or intensely angry. To say that Herod was upset is an understatement.

Herod’s response is in keeping with his personality. He decided to kill all the male children in Bethlehem and in the surrounding region. The text tells us that the parameter would be boys two years old or under. Why did Herod make this stipulation?  It was because of the time he had ascertained or discovered from the Magi. This indicates to us that Jesus could have been as old as two or younger when the Magi visited him.

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “This slaughter of the male children is mentioned only here in the biblical record. Even the Jewish historian Josephus (a.d. 37-100) did not mention this dastardly deed of putting to death innocent babies and young children. But it is not surprising that he and other secular historians overlooked the death of a few Hebrew children in an insignificant village, for Herod’s infamous crimes were many. He put to death several of his own children and some of his wives whom he thought were plotting against him. Emperor Augustus reportedly said it was better to be Herod’s sow than his son, for his sow had a better chance of surviving in a Jewish community. In the Greek language, as in English, there is only one letter difference between the words “sow” (huos) and “son” (huios).”

Even in His infancy, hatred of Jesus Christ was a common occurrence. Beginning with Herod, and continuing to the present day, Jesus’ words from John 15:18-21 which says, 18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me” (John 15:18–21).

I do not like the idea, or circumstances, of people hating me for my faith in Christ. However, the Bible tells me to expect it because their hatred for me is because a deeper hatred for the Lord Jesus. Have you encountered such hatred in your own life? Pray that God will give you the strength to be faithful.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

 

LORD’S DAY 49, 2019.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will display the 52 devotionals taken from the Heidelberg Catechism which are structured in the form of questions posed and answers given.

The Heidelberg Catechism was originally written in 1563. It originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. Conceived originally as a teaching instrument to promote religious unity, the catechism soon became a guide for preaching as well.

Along with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt, it forms what is collectively referred to as the Three Forms of Unity.

The devotional for LORD’S DAY 49 is as follows. Please take note of the biblical references given in each answer. This morning’s devotional addresses The Lord’s Prayer.

Q. What does the third petition mean?

A. “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” means:

Help us and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any back talk. Your will alone is good.1

Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to,2 as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.3

1 Matt. 7:2116:24-26Luke 22:42Rom. 12:1-2Tit. 2:11-12.
2 1 Cor. 7:17-24Eph. 6:5-9.
3 Ps. 103:20-21.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Advent: The Flight into Egypt.

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.” (Matthew 2:13–15)

God not only revealed Himself and His will in a dream to the Magi but also revealed Himself by an angel of the Lord to Joseph. Perhaps this was the same angel who had appeared to Joseph to quiet his fears of marrying Mary. We have no way of knowing.

However, we do know that the angel 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.” This eliminates any doubt about Herod’s true intentions regarding Jesus and that worshiping the Lord was not one of them. It seems that Herod’s murderous intent was formed before the Magi had reached Bethlehem.

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “Egypt was a Roman province independent of Herod, and much inhabited by Jews, was an easy and convenient refuge. Ah! Blessed Savior, on what a checkered career hast Thou entered here below! At Thy birth there was no room for Thee in the inn; and now all Judea is too hot for Thee. How soon has the sword begun to pierce through the Virgin’s soul (Luke 2:35)! How early does she taste the reception which this mysterious Child of hers is to meet with in the world! And whither is He sent? To “the house of bondage?” Well, it once was that. But Egypt was a house of refuge before it was a house of bondage, and now it has but returned to its first use”

“And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt” (Matthew 2:14). The obedience of the Magi in going back to their own country another way in order to avoid King Herod is coupled with the obedience of Joseph in leaving Bethlehem, with Mary and Jesus, and traveling to Egypt to avoid Herod. Joseph and his young family remained in Egypt until the death of Herod, which is historically verified at 4 B.C. However, Matthew is quick to point out that this was also a fulfillment of the prophecy found in Hosea 11:1: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “It is probable that the stay in Egypt was very brief—perhaps no more than a few weeks. This quotation is from Hos. 11:1 (see note there, which speaks of God’s leading Israel out of Egypt in the exodus. Matthew suggests that Israel’s sojourn in Egypt was a pictorial prophecy rather than a specific verbal one such as Matt. 2:6; cf. 1:23. These are called “types,” and all are always fulfilled in Christ and identified clearly by the NT writers. Another example of a type is found in John 3:14.”

God is in providential control of the circumstances of life. He is not detached from our situations but rather providentially works through and in them. May we derive great comfort from this knowledge.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advent: God’s Special Revelation.

And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.” (Matthew 2:12 ESV)

Theologians describe God’s disclosure of Himself as revelation. Revelation is defined as disclosure, an exposure of someone or something. Webster’s Dictionary defines biblical revelation as (A). An act of revealing or communicating divine truth. (B). something that is revealed by God to humans. (C). an act of revealing to view or making known. (D). something that is revealed especially an enlightening or astonishing disclosure.

Attached to the definition of revelations are two distinct categories of biblical revelation. These two categories are (1) general revelation and (2) specific revelation.

General revelation is God’s disclosure of Himself in a general way such as in creation. Important portions of Scripture expressing God’s general revelation would include Psalm 8, Psalm 19 and Romans 1:18-32.

God’s specific revelation is God’s disclosure of Himself in a specific way such as by miracles, dreams, visions, angels and audible voices. For believers today, and for the church, God reveals Himself through the specific revelation of His Word.

Within today’s passage, God revealed Himself to the Magi in a dream. It appears that each of the Magi were warned by God. The word warned (χρηματίζω; chrematizo) means to disclose a divine message from God. God divinely warned the Magi not to return to King Herod.

The Magi immediately obeyed. This obedience is evidences by the fact that they departed from Bethlehem and began to journey back to their own country. Only this time they went back to their own country another way than how they originally came. This allowed them to not journey near Jerusalem where they might be seen by either King Herod or his assistants. This may indicate that the Magi traveled with a large caravan.

Dr. John MacArthur, from his book God with Us: The Miracle of Christmas, writes, “Matthew tells us that the Magi, ‘having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod…departed for their own country by another way’ (Matthew 2:12). There almost seems to be a double meaning in that statement.  They returned to their country by a different geographical route, to be sure. But they also were now followers of another way in the spiritual sense. That’s true of everyone who turns to Christ and becomes one of His worshippers in spirit and truth: ‘If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).”

Are you a new creation in Christ? If you are, you know the changes which have occurred in your life since your conversion. Take time today to thank God for making you a new creation in Christ.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

 

Advent: Gifts Given to a King.

And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11 ESV)

Matthew’s account of the Magi’s visit is often overlooked during the Christmas season. It is not that people ignore the Magi’s visit to the Christ child or even the gifts they brought. What they fail to realize from today’s text is that the Magi did not visit Jesus while He laid in a manger. They also did not visit Him on the night when He was born as did the shepherds.

First of all, the Magi visited Jesus in a house and not a stable, cave or barn. The word house (οἰκία; oikia) means a family’s home or residence.

Second, Matthew described Jesus as a child. The word for child (παιδίον; paidion) means children under the age of puberty. This is to be distinguished from the word for baby (βρέφος; brephos) which means an infant or a very, small child. This is the word Luke used in Luke 2:12. Later on in Matthew’s account we will see how old Jesus may have been at the time of the Magi’s visit.

Matthew then recorded that the Magi fell down and worshipped Jesus. To fall down (πίπτω; pipto) means to prostrate oneself before an object. To worship (προσκυνέω; proskyneo) means to prostrate oneself in worship before an object. Matthew was emphatic in his description of the Magi’s reaction of seeing Jesus. They not only physically fell down before Him, but they prostrated themselves before Jesus in worship.

Their worship entailed the giving of gifts. There are three gifts mentioned. This is perhaps while we speculate that there were three Magi. Matthew described these gifts as treasures (θησαυρός ; thesaurus). The word literally means a treasure box. The gifts in the treasure boxes were gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Gold (χρυσός; chrysos) was the most highly valued metal in the ancient world. Not much has changed because gold remains the most highly valued metal in today’s world.

Frankincense (λίβανος; libanos) is an aromatic resin or gum from certain trees. It is also called a sweet smelling incense.

Myrrh (σμύρνα; smyrna) is also an aromatic resin or gum from certain bushes. Myrrh was a valuable substance in the anointing and preserving a corpse.

As one commentator notes, “These were gifts worthy of a king and this act by Gentile leaders pictures the wealth of the nations which will someday be completely given to the Messiah (Isa. 60:5, 11; 61:6; 66:20; Zeph. 3:10; Hag. 2:7–8).”

In light of this wonderful scene, I wonder what I may give Jesus which would resemble the gifts given by the Magi. Pastor John Piper has some insightful thoughts.

When the psalmist cried out, “What shall I render to the Lord for all of his benefits to me?” the reply was, “I will lift the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:12-13). So, translating that into Christmas: Jesus gives us the gift of himself and we ask, “Now what can I render to Jesus for all the benefits of his fellowship?” Answer: Ask him for his help. That’s the gift he wants.

The reason Christ wants this is because he always wants to get the glory while we get the benefit. Glory comes to him when we depend on him rather than try to enrich him. If we come to him with gifts—as though he needed something—then we put him in the position of a needy person, and we’re the benefactors. He always wants to be the one who is infinitely self-sufficient. Therefore the only gifts that we can bring Jesus are gifts of praise, thanks, longing, and neediness.

Jesus doesn’t need the food or the clothing. What he delights in is receiving the honor that his name gets when we chose to say, “It’s his brothers that I’m going to love and sacrifice for.” So as long as we talk about giving to Jesus—in terms of Matthew 25:40—we should understand that what is happening there is that Christ is being honored, glorified, and valued, because these are Christ’s brothers that we are willing to serve.

 

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

Advent: They Rejoiced with Exceeding Great Joy.

9 “After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” (Matthew 2:9–10 ESV)

Following their audience with King Herod, the Magi began their five mile journey to Bethlehem in order to find Jesus Christ, the recently born King of the Jews. It was when they began this last leg of their journey, that the star that they had seen and followed for many days and mile appeared again and led them exactly to the place where the child was.

The IVP Background Commentary to the New Testament says, “The text might imply only that the star appeared to move due to the Magi’s own movement. Even had the object been close enough to earth to calculate its relation to Bethlehem, Bethlehem was so close to Jerusalem that any distance would have been negligible unless the object was only a mile high. But the description of God’s leading of the Magi by a moving, supernatural sign may recall how God had led his own people by the fire and cloud in the wilderness (Ex 13:21–22).”

In other words, the star which the Magi followed may have not been a star at all. Rather, it may well have been the Shekinah glory of God. The word Shekhinah (Biblical Hebrew: שכינה‎ šekīnah; also Romanized Shekinah, Schechinah, Shechinah) is the English transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning “dwelling” or “settling” and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of God.

It was when the Magi saw the star again that they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. The Magi became convinced that they were not deceived but that this supernatural light was leading them to the king for whom they sought.

Whenever I read this text I think of a song contained in the Christmas Cantata Noel, Jesus is Born by Lanny Wolfe. It is called Rejoice with Exceeding Great Joy.

O’er mountains and valleys it led them each night.                                                                          A star of most radiant light.                                                                                                             The wise men rejoiced as they journeyed afar                                                                                  to behold such a beautiful star.

Oh when they saw the star they rejoiced with great joy!                                                                Oh when they saw the star they rejoiced with great joy!                                                                Oh when they saw the star they rejoiced with great joy!                                                                They rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

Are you rejoicing with exceedingly great joy when you consider all that the Lord has done for you? Take time today to praise with all your heart.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advent: A Shrewd Inquiry.

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” (Matthew 2:7–8 ESV)

Herod was a methodical schemer. He was really not what he seemed to be on the surface. While superficially charming, he possessed a deep rooted hatred for any enemy: real or imagined. This applied to even those within his immediate family. You can be sure that Herod already made his mind up that Jesus was his mortal enemy who he needed to destroy.

Herod summoned the Magi and met with them secretly. Why? Perhaps it was to hide his true intentions and to limit the Magi’s investigation to only him. Regardless, in his meeting with the Eastern visitors he discovered from them how long they had been traveling since they saw the star. Remember, Herod had a reason for everything he asked and did.

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “Herod has so far succeeded in his murderous design: he has tracked the spot where lies his victim, an unconscious babe. But he has another point to fix—the date of His birth—without which he might still miss his mark. The one he had got from the Sanhedrim; the other he will have from the sages; but secretly, lest his object should be suspected and defeated. So he inquired of them diligently—rather, “precisely” what time the star appeared—presuming that this would be the best clue to the age of the child. The unsuspecting strangers tell him all. And now he thinks he is succeeding to a wish, and shall speedily clutch his victim; for at so early an age as they indicate, He would not likely have been removed from the place of His birth. Yet he is wary. He sends them as messengers from himself, and bids them come to him, that he may follow their pious example.”

Herod sent the Magi to Bethlehem to find the Christ child. This ensured safe conduct for the Magi. He added that they were to return with word of where the baby could be found. Herod’s overt reason was to worship the child as the Magi intended. However, Herod’s covert plan was to destroy the child along with anyone who stood in his way.

Even today there are those who profess religious loyalty to Christ only to turn against Him and any of His followers when things do not go their way. What about you? Are you a Christ follower or just a pretender?

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

  

 

 

Advent: A Discovered Prophecy; A Disinterested Investigation

and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘and you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” (Matthew 2:4–6)

King Herod wanted to know where the newborn king of the Jews was to be born. What city, town or hamlet? He did not know the answer so he summoned all the chief priest and scribes. Following their arrival to the king’s palace in Jerusalem, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. It is interesting that he did not know the biblical answer.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary of the New Testament says, “The chief priests belonged mainly to the wealthy aristocracy of Sadducees. “Scribes” applies to experts in the Jewish law, most of whom were also teachers of the law. Herod exercised a great deal of influence over the prominent leaders of the people, having forcibly removed most of his political opponents.

However the chief priests and scribes certainly did. They told Herod that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, according to the Prophet Micah. They even quoted Micah 5:2 which says, ““‘and you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

 One commentator writes, “This ancient prophecy from Micah 5:2 was written in the eighth century B.C. The original prophecy, not quoted in full by Matthew, declared the deity of Israel’s Messiah: “from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” The other portion of Matthew’s quote actually seems to be a reference to God’s words to David when Israel’s kingdom was originally established (2 Sam. 5:21 Chron. 11:2). The Greek word for “ruler” evokes the image of strong, even stern, leadership. “Shepherd” emphasizes tender care. Christ’s rule involves both (cf. Rev. 12:5).

 It is ironic that the chief priests and scribes knew the exact answer and location of the Messiah’s birth. What they did not have was even an idle curiosity to travel the distance from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (5 miles) to see if indeed Micah’s prophecy had come true. What a shame.

I Corinthians 2:14 says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” The chief priests and scribes were religious but apparently they did not have a heart for the Lord as demonstrated by their inaction. What about you?

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

 

 

 

 

LORD’S DAY 48, 2019.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will display the 52 devotionals taken from the Heidelberg Catechism which are structured in the form of questions posed and answers given.

The Heidelberg Catechism was originally written in 1563. It originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. Conceived originally as a teaching instrument to promote religious unity, the catechism soon became a guide for preaching as well.

Along with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt, it forms what is collectively referred to as the Three Forms of Unity.

The devotional for LORD’S DAY 48 is as follows. Please take note of the biblical references given in each answer. This morning’s devotional addresses The Lord’s Prayer.

Q. What does the second petition mean?

A. “Your kingdom come” means: Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you.1 Preserve your church and make it grow.2

Destroy the devil’s work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your holy Word.3 Do this until your kingdom fully comes, when you will be all in all.4

1 Ps. 119:5, 105143:10Matt. 6:33.
2 Ps. 122:6-9Matt. 16:18Acts 2:42-47.
3 Rom. 16:201 John 3:8.
4 Rom. 8:22-231 Cor. 15:28Rev. 22:17, 20.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Advent: Herod’s Really Bad Day.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; “(Matthew 2:1–3 (ESV)

We previously examined the life of Herod the Great. He was a ruthless, paranoid king who was not above killing real, or suspected, rivals to his throne. He would stop at nothing, including eliminating members of his own family, to ensure that he kept his power.

When Herod heard about the Magi’s quest and inquiry into the new born king of the Jews, he was troubled. He quickly paid attention to what was being said and he didn’t like what he was hearing.

The word troubled (ταράσσω; tarasso) means to be disturbed and to experience great mental distress. Herod’s mind was stirred. In fact, the Greek word for troubled can mean a riot going on in one’s mind. Herod experienced acute emotional distress and turbulence. In short, Herod was not happy.

At the same time, the text continues to say the all Jerusalem was also troubled along with Herod. Why? It is because the Jewish populace in Jerusalem knew what Herod was capable of when he suspected his power was threatened. They knew he would everything and anything he could to destroy any challenger. No one was safe.

Perhaps Herod’s fear and disquieted reaction to the news of the Magi’s search is best explained by one commentator who says, “It is no surprise that King Herod … was disturbed when the Magi came to Jerusalem looking for the One who had been “born King” (v. 2). Herod was not the rightful king from the line of David. In fact he was not even a descendant of Jacob, but was descended from Esau and thus was an Edomite. (He reigned over Palestine from 37 b.c. to 4 b.c.). This fact caused most of the Jews to hate him and never truly to accept him as king, even though he did much for the country. If someone had been rightfully born king, then Herod’s job was in jeopardy.”

While 2,000 years separates us from Herod, there remains to this day people of power who will do anything they can to humiliate or destroy those with whom they feel threatened. This can happen not only politically, economically, militarily but also even religiously. This occurs when people who hold sway within an organization will exert their power and influence to hire and fire anyone indiscriminately. This creates an unhealthy environment, whether it is within a business or in a local church.

Are there King Herod’s in your life? Are there people who you know who will do anything to justify their behavior and to keep their power and influence over you and others? Remember that their authority, whether real or imagined, is no match for the sovereign ruler of the universe. What was true in Herod’s day remains so in our own.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

Advent: Where is He, Born King of the Jews?

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

In Matthew 2:2, we observe from the Magi a question as they searched, a reason behind their search and a purpose for their search. Let’s look at each of these items separately.

What was the Magi’s question as they searched? It was, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” This question is what the Magi continued to ask when they arrived in Jerusalem. They must have presumed that a new born king of the Jews would be born in the Jewish capital of Jerusalem. They were mistaken.

The reason behind their search was that they “saw his star when it rose. What was the star of which the Magi referred? The IVP Background Commentary of the New Testament explains that, “Astronomers have offered various proposals for the appearance of this star in the first decade b.c. The ancients thought comets and falling stars predicted the fall of rulers; some emperors even banished from Rome astrologers who issued such predictions. By this period many Jewish people accepted the idea that the stars could accurately predict the future. Even though these Magi were pagans, God had chosen to reveal himself to them.”

Dr. John Walvoored speculates that, “This special revelation may simply have been in the sky, as might be indicated by their title “Magi” (specialists in astronomy) and by the fact they referred to a star which they saw. Or this revelation could have come through some contact with Jewish scholars who had migrated to the East with copies of Old Testament manuscripts. Many feel the Magi’s comments reflected a knowledge of Balaam’s prophecy concerning the “star” that would “come out of Jacob” (Num. 24:17). Whatever the source, they came to Jerusalem to worship the newborn King of the Jews.”

The word star (ἀστήρ; aster) may refer not only to a physical star, but also a planet or even a supernatural light for leading. This third meaning seems to be the star to which the Magi referred to and which Matthew later describes as leading the Magi to the exact location of Jesus and his human parents.

What was the ultimate purpose for the Magi’s search? The text says, “For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Their purpose was worship. Worship is defined as the action, expressed by attitude and possibly by position, of one’s allegiance to and regard for deity.

The Magi came to worship God. What a wonderful and biblical idea.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Advent: Herod the Great.

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,” (Matthew 2:1 (ESV).

Who was Herod the king? What relationship does he have, if any, with the Herod who not only had John the Baptist beheaded but also was involved in one of the six trials Jesus experienced immediately prior to His crucifixion?

The Herod which Matthew refers to is also known as Herod the Great. His cumulative reign as King of Judea began in 37 B.C. until 4:B.C. The Jewish historian Josephus referred to Herod as Herod “the great.” This term probably referred primarily to the fact that he was the oldest son of Antipater. Not only was Herod a shrewd politician, but he was also a great soldier, orator, and a builder. Aside from his appearance in Matthew’s nativity narrative, Herod the Great’s building projects serve as the backdrop for many New Testament events.

There are three significant time periods in Herod’s life. They include the following:

  1. 37–27 bc: Consolidation of Power. Herod impressed Rome with his ability to pacify the Jews whose homeland he occupied. Herod was capable at collecting taxes and quelling uprisings.
  2. 27–13 bc: Peace and Prosperity. Herod rebuilt forts, instituted Olympic style games, and began rebuilding the Jerusalem temple.
  3. 13–4 bc: Domestic Strife. This period saw troubles within the land along with misunderstandings with Rome. It was a time marked by Herod’s increasing mental instability. He was also plagued by problems with his 10 wives and his children.

Herod became a paranoid tyrant. He constantly worried that he would lose his kingdom. The fortresses he built reflect this paranoia, as they provided refuge when he felt threatened. Herod executed his two sons Alexander and Aristobulus due to rumors of mutiny. Herod married 10 women and fathered 15 children by them.

At the end of his life, Herod suffered from a severe illness. Josephus described Herod’s symptoms: “For a fire glowed in him slowly, which did not so much appear to the touch outwardly as it augmented his pains inwardly; for it brought upon him a vehement appetite to eating … His entrails were also ulcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay on his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquor also settled itself about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly” (Josephus, Antiquities, 17.6.5). He was buried in the Herodium.

Herod issued two commands to be performed upon his death:

  1. To execute the recently imprisoned Jewish elders so that the people would be mourning during his death.
  2. To execute his son Antipater.

Upon Herod’s request, his lands were divided among three of his sons:

  1. Archelaus was left the throne.
  2. Antipas was to be tetrarch of Galilee.
  3. Philip was to be tetrarch of Gaulanitis.

Herod’s most significant role in the New Testament is his appearance in Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 2). This account reflects Herod’s influence and jealousy. His attempt to discover the rival “King of the Jews” resulted in the murder of innocent children in the Bethlehem region.

Many of Herod’s building projects serve as backdrops for events of the New Testament. As one commentator explains, “Bethlehem—the birthplace of Jesus—is located near the Herodium. The magnificence of Herod’s temple is clearly displayed in the Gospels. At one point, Jesus’ disciples commented about the architecture of Herod’s temple: “As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down’ ” (Mark 13:1–2, NASB). The temple played a significant part in the life and ministry of Christ.”

 Christ came to what is referred to as Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem three times a year, every year, from the time he was 12 years old until He died. During His ministry, Jesus preached in this temple (John 7–10), He celebrated Jewish feasts there and predicted the temple’s destruction (Luke 19:43–44; 21:6).

Many of Herod’s building projects also provide the backdrop for the Book of Acts. This includes the city of Caesarea, which was visited by Peter, Paul, and was the home of Philip (Acts 8; 23:33; 21:8). Paul was also brought to trial in the city of Caesarea, which Herod had built and whose port he had engineered.

Following Herod’s death, his son Antipas served as tetrarch over Galilee (Mark 14:1; Luke 3:1). He is the Herod most referred to in the Gospels. Antipas reigned during Jesus’ years of ministry. Antipas probably inherited some of his father’s shrewd ways, since Jesus referred to him as a “fox” (Luke 13:32). Herod Antipas is also mentioned at the trial of Jesus (Luke 23:6–12). Herod’s son Philip is also mentioned as the tetrarch of the northern region of the kingdom (Luke 3:1).

It is important for us to understand the historical character of Herod the Great. Otherwise, we may not understand why he does what he does following the news of a child born to be the king of the Jews.

We will continue our study of the visit by the Magi when next we meet.

Soli deo Gloria!

To all my North American readers and partners, Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Advent: The Magi.

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,” (Matthew 2:1 (ESV).

As we venture from Luke’s Gospel account of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, we come to the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s point of view regarding Jesus is that He is the prophesied King of the Jews (Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:17). Therefore, it makes logical sense that Matthew would provide the account of the visit from the Magi.

Who were the Magi? There is a lot of speculation regarding their identity and origin. Were they really kings as the familiar Christmas Carol We Three Kings states? What about King Herod. Who exactly was this ruler and what were his feelings not only about the Magi but also the news regarding the birth of Jesus Christ?

To begin with, the word Magi (μάγος; magos) has various meanings. These include wise man, priest, sorcerer or magician. We do know from the text that there were more than one Magi, the word is in the plural form, and that they were men.

Dr. John Walvoord explains that. “‘Magi’ (not “wise men”—KJV) were pagan astrologers whose divinatory skills were widely respected in the Greco-Roman world; astrology had become popular through the “science” of the East, and everyone agreed that the best astrologers lived in the East. The Old Testament explicitly forbade such prognostication from signs (Deut. 18:11; cf. Isaiah 2:6; 47:11–15), prescribing true prophecy instead (Deut. 18:15).”

Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “The number of wise men is not given. The traditional notion that there were three stems from the number of gifts they brought. These were not kings, but Magi, magicians, or astrologers—possibly Zoroastrian wise men from Persia whose knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures could be traced back to the time of Daniel (cf. Dan. 5:11).”

Dr. Walvoord continues by saying that, The exact identity of the Magi is impossible to determine, though several ideas have been suggested. They have been given traditional names and identified as representatives of the three groups of peoples that descended from Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. More likely they were Gentiles of high position from a country, perhaps Parthia, northeast of Babylon, who were given a special revelation by God of the birth of the King of the Jews. This special revelation may simply have been in the sky, as might be indicated by their title “Magi” (specialists in astronomy) and by the fact they referred to a star which they saw. Or this revelation could have come through some contact with Jewish scholars who had migrated to the East with copies of Old Testament manuscripts. Many feel the Magi’s comments reflected a knowledge of Balaam’s prophecy concerning the “star” that would “come out of Jacob” (Num. 24:17). Whatever the source, they came to Jerusalem to worship the newborn King of the Jews.”

Why would the Magi come to Jerusalem? To begin with, it was Israel’s capitol city. King Herod resided there. As we shall see as we continue in the text, where else would you look for a newborn king then the city where the Jewish king’s palace is located.

However, Jesus always defied people’s expectations.

Stay tuned. There is more to come.

Soli deo Gloria!   

 

 

 

 

Advent: The Redemption of Jerusalem.

36 “And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36–38)

Anna is another Christmas character who is often overlooked or just plain forgotten. Yet, Luke’s mention of her in his gospel account is significant. What do we know about Anna?

First, Anna was a prophetess. She was a woman who proclaimed inspired utterances on behalf of God. As one commentary explains, “Although the Old Testament did include prophetesses, they were much less prominent than male prophets in the Jewish tradition of this period. The name “Anna” is the Hebrew name “Hannah” (1 Sam 1:2).”

Anna was the daughter of Phanuel. Nothing more is said of Anna’s father. However, they were both from the Jewish Tribe of Asher.

The text goes on to say that Anna “was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “This godly woman from the prophetic tradition continued the work Simeon had started. Anna was 84 years old and had devoted herself completely to the Lord’s service in the temple since her husband had died years before.”

Another commentator says, “Jewish and Greco-Roman culture often viewed widows who never remarried as pious and faithful. Judith, a famous widow in Jewish tradition, was said to have lived as a widow till her death at 105. If one adds the two numbers given in the text here, seven and eighty-four (taking eighty-four as the length of Anna’s widowhood rather than her age), and she was married at the common age of fourteen, one could see her as 105 also.

As Simeon was proclaiming his prophetic utterances about Jesus to Mary and Joseph, Anna just happened upon the scene. Anna began to give thanks to God announcing to any and all that Jesus was the redemption of Jerusalem. There are no coincidences.

Thus far in the biblical text, the birth of Jesus has been met with joy and gladness. However, the fallen world’s hatred of God and His Messianic gift will soon be rejected and hated. This hatred will be part of the key narrative regarding wise visitors from the east who come seeking He who was born King of the Jews.

Remember that as you seek to share the gospel, there will be those who not only will reject and hate the gospel’s message but will also hate you for sharing it. Always be prepared (I Peter 3:15).

Until then, may the Lord’s truth and grace continue to be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

Advent: Behold, this Child.

33 “And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:33-35)

Simeon’s response upon seeing the baby Jesus was praise and prophecy. Joseph and Mary’s response upon hearing what Simeon had to say was astonishment and wonder.

Simeon then blessed the young family in general and spoke to Mary in particular. He said, ““Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Simeon said four significant things.

First, he said that Jesus Christ was appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel. This means that there would be those who would reject Jesus and the gospel while others would receive both in their conversion. Scripture clearly teaches that for the unbeliever Jesus Christ is a stone of stumbling (1 Pet. 2:8). However, for those who are converted in Christ, God raises them unto new life (Eph. 2:6). Cf. Isa. 8:14–15Hos. 14:91 Cor. 1:23–24

Second, Jesus Christ is a sign that is opposed. Simeon mentioned only the verbal insults hurled at Christ, but the figure of speech involves more than that. It involves Israel’s rejection, hatred, and crucifixion of the Messiah.

Thirdly, Simeon said that a sword would also pierce May’s soul. Undoubtedly, this is a reference to the pain and sorrow Mary would experience when she witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus.

Finally, Simeon said that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed. People’s true nature is revealed when the subject is the person and work of Jesus Christ. The rejection of the Messiah would not only reveal the appalling truth about the apostate state of the Jews but also the ungodliness of the Gentiles (Romans 1:18-32).  

Simeon’s prophetic song and subsequent revelation to Mary clearly sets forth Jesus’ mission as culminating in the cross and later, the resurrection. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the pivotal point of history. Do you recognize this as such?

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!