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Incarnation Contemplation - The Magi

Posted on December 23, 2015 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The Magi, the Wise Men, were key visitors and worshipers early in Jesus’ life.

 

Matthew 2:1 Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem, in the province of Judea, at the time when King Herod reigned. Not long after Jesus was born, magi, wise men or seers from the East, made their way from the East to Jerusalem. These wise men made inquiries.

 

According to both the Reformation Study Bible and John MacArthur Study Bible notes these men were NOT kings, but were most likely court advisers who were both astronomers and astrologers. Many scholars believe they may have been from Persia or Babylonia and would have learned of the prophesied Messiah due to Daniel’s captivity.

 

Wise Men: 2 Where is this newborn, who is the King of the Jews? When we were far away in the East we saw His star, and we have followed its glisten and gleam all this way to worship Him.

 

Scientists have tried to explain the phenomenon of the star by saying it was a conjunction of three planets or a supernova. However, the fact that it moved and rested in one place would negate those theories. The Reformation Study Bible notes proposed that it may have been some form of the Shekinah glory of God similar to that which led the Israelites out of Egypt. At any rate, it was a miraculous occurrence. I think the star was the Father’s personal birthday candle in the sky announcing the birth of His son. The wise men stated that their sole purpose in traveling from the East was to find this Baby and worship Him. The wise men were only seekers, not like Simeon and Anna who were devout, expectant Jewish believers. They did not come desiring gifts from Him but bearing gifts for Him. They did not see this baby King as a cosmic Santa Claus or a supernatural slot machine like many people approach God today.

 

Matthew 2:3 King Herod began to hear rumors of the wise men’s quest, and he, and all of his followers in Jerusalem, were worried.

 

King Herod was a controlling despot whose reign was one of fear. If King Herod wasn’t happy, no one was happy. The Baby was threat to his dictatorial control over Israel. This also would mean that his sons would not inherit the kingdom. Instead of being excited about the possibility that the Messiah had arrived, he was jealous, green with envy.

 

Matthew 2:4 So Herod called all of the leading Jewish teachers, the chief priests and head scribes, and he asked them where Hebrew tradition claimed the long-awaited Anointed One would be born.

 

The king of Israel did not have enough interest in the coming Messiah to have studied the scriptures for himself. He had to inquire of others.

 

Matthew 2:5 Scribes and Priests: An ancient Hebrew prophet, Micah, said this:

 

6 But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are no poor relation—

For from your people will come a Ruler

who will be the shepherd of My people Israel.

 

This prophecy is found in Micah 5:2. Ruler denotes a strong, stern leadership, but shepherd refers to gentle, protective care.

 

Matthew 2:7 Herod called the wise men to him, demanding to know the exact time the special star had appeared to them.

 

The wise men are not even under his rule, but he ordered them to give him information. He was trying to ascertain exactly how old the baby Boy was at this time.

 

8 Then Herod sent them to Bethlehem.

 

Herod: Go to Bethlehem and search high and low for this Savior child; and as soon as you know where He is, report it to me so that I may go and worship Him.

 

Herod had no intention of worshiping the Child. He wanted to eliminate Him as we will see. He feared Jesus would disrupt his family legacy as well as his own rule.

 

Matthew 2:9-10 The wise men left Herod’s chambers and went on their way. The star they had first seen in the East reappeared—a miracle that, of course, overjoyed and enraptured the wise men. The star led them to the house where Jesus lay;

 

The star had disappeared temporarily which is why the Magi had inquired of Herod. Now it re-appeared and led them directly to the house where Jesus was living. The wise men were not just full of joy when the star came back into view: their joy was exponentially overwhelming. It was also a relief that they could now fulfill their hearts’ desire to worship the baby King. Jesus may have been a year to 18 months old by this time (according to the time the wise men told Herod they had first seen the star) and his family had moved to a house in Bethlehem. In other words, the wise men were not as the stable as they are so often depicted in artwork and dramatizations.

 

Matthew 2:11 and as soon as the wise men arrived, they saw Him with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. They unpacked their satchels and gave Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

 

Whenever scripture mentions Jesus and Mary in the same breath, He is always given the position of prominence by being listed first. Joseph must have been at work since he is not mentioned.

 

 

Notes from The Voice Bible:

 

These are exceptionally good gifts, for gold is what is given a king, and Jesus is the King of kings; incense is what you expect to be given a priest, and Jesus is the High Priest of all high priests; myrrh ointment is used to heal, and Jesus is a healer. But myrrh is also used to embalm corpses—and Jesus was born to die.

 

The wise men probably did not fully understand the significance of their gifts or their visit. Scripture foretells that kings would worship The King:

 

Psalm 72:10-11 (VOICE)

 

10 Let the kings of Tarshish and the island kings

shower him with gifts

And the kings of Sheba and Seba bring him presents as well.

11 Let every king on earth bow down before him

and every nation be in his service.

 

Isaiah 60:6 (VOICE)

 

6 Herd after herd of camels will cover the land,

caravans arriving daily from south and southwest: Midian, Ephah,

Even Sheba with gifts of gold and frankincense.

They will announce for all the world to hear, “The Eternal be praised!”

 

 

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

 

The wise men obeyed the Holy Spirit’s message to them in the dream, and did not reveal the Baby’s location to Herod. The Magi were truly wise and were not duped into becoming Herod’s henchmen.

 

Matthew 2:13 After the wise men left, a messenger of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.

 

Messenger of the Lord (to Joseph): Get up, take the child and His mother, and head to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you it is safe to leave. For Herod understands that Jesus threatens him and all he stands for. He is planning to search for the child and kill Him. But you will be safe in Egypt.

 

14 So Joseph got up in the middle of the night; he bundled up Mary and Jesus, and they left for Egypt.

 

Angels were protecting the Holy Child. Astrologers obeyed the dream for his protection. The way that the Father protected Jesus as every turn should give us great confidence and courage that no matter what we face, if we believe and trust in our God, He will protect us with the same tenacity that He protected His Son. Jesus was here on the mission of the redemption of man. In order to fulfill that, He had to live among us as the perfect God/Man which means He had to grow up! God is as eager and intentional for each of us to fulfill our purposes as He was for Jesus to fulfill His. When God calls us, it is not for our ease but for us to serve Him and bring others into His kingdom as well.

 

Matthew 2:15 Joseph, Mary, and Jesus stayed in Egypt until Herod died. This fulfilled yet another prophecy. The prophet Hosea once wrote, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

 

Hosea 11:1 (VOICE)

 

11 Eternal One: When Israel was a child, I loved him;

and out of Egypt I called My son.

 

Matthew 2:16 After a few months had passed, Herod realized he’d been tricked. The wise men were not coming back. Herod, of course, was furious. He simply ordered that all boys who lived in or near Bethlehem and were two years of age and younger be killed. He knew the baby King was this age because of what the wise men told him.

 

Herod, seething with anger, commands that all the boys two and under be slaughtered. He does not care about the innocent lives destroyed. He is intent on killing this One he sees as usurper. His plan was thwarted because Joseph was obedient to the message in the dream.

 

Matthew 2:17 This sad event had long been foretold by the prophet Jeremiah: (Jeremiah 31:15)

 

18 A voice will be heard in Ramah,

weeping and wailing and mourning out loud all day and night.

The voice is Rachel’s, weeping for her children,

her children who have been killed;

she weeps, and she will not be comforted.

 

Imagine the anguish of all those mothers who lost their sons to a murderous annihilator!

 

Matthew 2:19 And after Herod died, a messenger of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt:

 

Messenger of the Lord: 20 You may go home now. Take the child and His mother and go back to the land of Israel, for the people who were trying to take the child’s life are now dead.

 

Just as an angel had warned Joseph to flee to Egypt, one now informs him that it is safe to return to Israel.

 

APPLY THIS TO YOUR LIFE:

 

1. Are we coming to Jesus to give Him adoration and worship, or are we only interested in what He can give us?

 

2. Do we understand all Jesus has done for us and can do in us, or do we see him (like Herod) as the eternal kill-joy? Jesus came to give us abundant life. His rules are for our protection, peace, and fulfillment; not to limit us.

 

3. The wise men brought their best gifts to the Savior, not only the physical gifts, but the most important gift – their worship. Are we bringing Him our best? Are we truly engaged in worshiping our Lord as instructed in Scripture, or are we distracted by the world and the trappings of how society defines Christmas?

 

4. Do we seek the Lord’s wisdom as we travel this earth, trusting Him to guide our steps?

 

5. We need to fully rely on the Lord to fulfill His purposes in and through us.

 

Incarnation Contemplation - Simeon & Anna

Posted on December 22, 2015 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Simeon and Anna were elderly people who had anticipated the appearance of the Messiah for many years. Here are their stories.

 

Luke 2:21(VOICE) Eight days after His birth, the baby was circumcised in keeping with Jewish religious requirements, and He was named Jesus, the name the messenger had given Him before His conception in Mary’s womb. 22 After Mary had observed the ceremonial days of postpartum purification required by Mosaic law, she and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. 23 They were fulfilling the Lord’s requirement that “every firstborn Israelite male will be dedicated to the Eternal One as holy.” 24 They also offered the sacrifice required by the law of the Lord, “two turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

 

Jesus was circumcised as the Law required on the eighth day. After Mary waited the required 40 days for purification, Mary and Joseph took the baby to the Temple in Jerusalem. As the firstborn male, he was to be dedicated to God. Two turtledoves or two young pigeons was the sacrifice for poor people who did not own or have the ability to purchase a perfect lamb. However, they were dedicating THE PERFECT LAMB! At this time, He was given the name Jesus which means “Jehovah is generous. Jehovah saves.” God’s free gift of grace was purchased by Jesus on the cross to save us from our sins, a generous gift indeed. Before Jesus created the world, before He spoke everything into being, He was “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” Revelation 13:8b (KJV). This means that even before Adam and Eve could sin and be deceived, God in His mercy, had cleaned up the mess of sin. In God’s timing it was as if Jesus had already gone to the cross.

 

Luke 2:25 While fulfilling these sacred obligations at the temple, they encountered a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was a just and pious man, anticipating the liberation of Israel from her troubles. He was a man in touch with the Holy Spirit. 26 The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Anointed One. 27 The Spirit had led him to the temple that day, and there he saw the child Jesus in the arms of His parents, who were fulfilling their sacred obligations. 28 Simeon took Jesus into his arms and blessed God.

 

Simeon means “obedient, listening” in Hebrew. Simeon definitely was an obedient listener, hearing the Holy Spirit. For us to be enabled to hear the Holy Spirit, we must be obedient listeners. We must listen intently and intentionally. Simeon heard the Spirit in his heart assuring him he would live to see the Messiah. Somehow the Spirit prompted him to go to the temple that very day and hour that Jesus was being dedicated. There he saw baby Jesus in his parents arms and KNEW this infant was the Son of God. He was filled with hope, peace and comfort.

 

Luke 2:29 Simeon: Now, Lord and King, You can let me, Your humble servant, die in peace.

30 You promised me that I would see with my own eyes

what I’m seeing now: Your freedom,

31 Raised up in the presence of all peoples.

32 He is the light who reveals Your message to the other nations,

and He is the shining glory of Your covenant people, Israel.

 

Simeon now can rest because he not only believed that the Lord was in control but he had seen that the Lord was in control.  He had been allowed to see the promised Hope, our freedom the chain breaker, the One who delivers us from the prison of sin. He also acknowledged in his speech that Jesus was not for Israel alone. He was to make the message available to other nations.

 

Luke 2:33 His father and mother were stunned to hear Simeon say these things. 34 Simeon went on to bless them both, and to Mary in particular he gave predictions.

 

Simeon: Listen, this child will make many in Israel rise and fall. He will be a significant person whom many will oppose. 35 In the end, He will lay bare the secret thoughts of many hearts. And a sword will pierce even your own soul, Mary.

 

Jesus would have a polarizing effect on people. They would either recognize Him as the Messiah and be raised to walk with God, or they would reject Him and ultimately fall. He will be a significant person now seems to be a humongous understatement. Our entire western calendar revolves around Him. Granted, His life was unique, but one ordinary person can have a tremendous impact as well. I do not know how many days I have left, but I am determined to use my influence on behalf of God to the fullest extent of God’s ability within me. Exposing our secret thoughts is an intimidating and somewhat ominous proposition especially if we have not yet experienced God’s saving grace. Jesus makes our sin and failure apparent to us in order that we may see our need of Him and His availability to us when we surrender to Him.

 

Mary’s heart would be broken as she saw her innocent Son crucified. However, we know the rest of the story, that she would see Him raised from the dead!

 

Luke 2:36 At that very moment, an elderly woman named Anna stepped forward. Anna was a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She had been married for seven years before her husband died 37 and a widow to her current age of 84 years. She was deeply devoted to the Lord, constantly in the temple, fasting and praying. 38 When she approached Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, she began speaking out thanks to God, and she continued spreading the word about Jesus to all those who shared her hope for the rescue of Jerusalem.

 

Anna in Hebrew means “favor or grace, God has favored me”. God certainly favored Anna in allowing her to see the baby Savior. Anna’s husband died when they had been married only a brief time. What sustained Anna much of the time was not physical food, but prayer. She made the food for her spirit the priority rather than her physical appetite. At this point she was 84 years old. She, also, immediately knew that Jesus was the Messiah. But for her, it wasn’t time to go and rest. She now felt compelled to go and share the good news of this Messiah wrapped in the tender skin of a baby.

 

39 After fulfilling their sacred duties according to the law of the Lord, Mary and Joseph returned with Jesus to their own city of Nazareth in the province of Galilee. 40 There Jesus grew up, maturing in physical strength and increasing in wisdom, and the grace of God rested on Him.

 

After a brief sojourn in Egypt, they returned to Nazareth where Joseph worked as a carpenter. Jesus had to grow up and get stronger just like any other child. He had to satiate His hunger, hydrate, and eliminate just like the rest of us. He had to obey His parents (those He created). He was fully human yet fully divine.

 

APPLY THIS TO YOUR LIFE:

 

1. Remember that Jesus came with the cross already in view. Incarnation is not only about a baby in a manger.

 

2. Are we expecting Jesus to break through the clouds as if it could be today? And are we excitedly anticipating His moving in our lives right now?

 

3. No one knows how many days or years they have left to serve the Lord, but we can choose to live each moment with Jesus’ influence flowing through me in this life.

 

4. Anna had lived with an appetite for the Lord. Once she met Him, she was rejuvenated to share about Him with everyone. Share the Good News today!

 

Incarnation Contemplation - Birth and Shepherds

Posted on December 20, 2015 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Luke 2:1(VOICE) Around the time of Elizabeth’s amazing pregnancy and John’s birth, the emperor in Rome, Caesar Augustus, required everyone in the Roman Empire to participate in a massive census— 2 the first census since Quirinius had become governor of Syria. 3 Each person had to go to his or her ancestral city to be counted. 4-5 Mary’s fiancé Joseph, from Nazareth in Galilee, had to participate in the census in the same way everyone else did. Because he was a descendant of King David, his ancestral city was Bethlehem, David’s birthplace. Mary, who was now late in her pregnancy that the messenger Gabriel had predicted, 6 accompanied Joseph.

 

The Roman emperor wanted to have an accurate count of every family in order to impose taxes on them. The fact that Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem reiterates that he was descended from King David and fulfills the Old Testament prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem in Hebrew means “house of bread”. Jesus would later be called the Bread of Life. He also compared Himself to manna at one point. John 6:35 Jesus: I am the bread that gives life. If you come to My table and eat, you will never go hungry. Believe in Me, and you will never go thirsty.

 

Luke 2:6 While in Bethlehem, she went into labor 7 and gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped the baby in a blanket and laid Him in a feeding trough because the inn had no room for them.

 

Jesus was laid in a feeding trough, which goes back to the Bread of Life again. The Eternal being placed in a feeding trough because He is the food, the life source of man. I am sure the inns were packed because David had many descendants (as the Lord had promised him) that had to travel there. However, how often do we have so much “stuff” crammed into the inn of our heart, that Jesus is crowded out of our consciousness?

 

Luke 2:8 Nearby, in the fields outside of Bethlehem, a group of shepherds were guarding their flocks from predators in the darkness of night.

 

Shepherds were the least of the working class in that day. They were on one of the lowest rungs of society’s ladder. These particular shepherds may have been guarding the flocks used for sacrifices in the temple. That God chose to announce the birth of His Son first to this group of people shows that He has no favoritism of class. His interest is solely in the hearts of humanity, not where they are on the socio-economic strata. He invited the shepherds to be the first to worship the perfect Lamb of God. They were allowed VIP access even before the Magi, the wise men, from the east.

 

 

Reformation Study Bible:

Shepherds were a despised class because their work prevented them from keeping the ceremonial law, and as they moved about the country it was common for them to be regarded as thieves. They were considered unreliable and were not allowed to give evidence in the courts.

 

Luke 2:9 Suddenly a messenger of the Lord stood in front of them, and the darkness was replaced by a glorious light—the shining light of God’s glory. They were terrified!

 

When angels appear, the first response is to fall on your face afraid. Imagine how you would respond if you were out in the middle of nowhere on a pitch black night, and suddenly the sky lit up like daylight!

 

Messenger: 10 Don’t be afraid! Listen! I bring good news, news of great joy, news that will affect all people everywhere. 11 Today, in the city of David, a Liberator has been born for you! He is the promised Anointed One, the Supreme Authority! 12 You will know you have found Him when you see a baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough.

 

Angels almost always begin with “Fear not!” because their appearance can be overwhelming. This angel declares he has something good to tell them. Joyful news of the Messiah’s birth. All three namesLiberator (Savior), Anointed One (Christ or Messiah), and Lord (used for God in the Old Testament)were used to describe the baby that had been born in Bethlehem. The shepherds themselves had probably been born somewhere better than a stable. To their astonishment, they were told that this Baby King was born in a stable and would actually be lying on hay where the cattle fed!

 

Luke 2:13 At that moment, the first heavenly messenger was joined by thousands of other messengers—a vast heavenly choir. They praised God.

 

14 Heavenly Choir: To the highest heights of the universe, glory to God!

And on earth, peace among all people who bring pleasure to God!

 

I imagine the shepherds were now shaking in their sandals. If one angel was terrifying, how much more fearsome would an army of them be? But this army was announcing peace, not war.

Peace had come for all people who bring pleasure to God. You will have peace when you give God pleasure. When you are not a peace, the question is “are you giving God pleasure or are you breaking His heart because you are not being or becoming what He created you for?” We need to ask ourselves, “What pleases God?” Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Walking humbly with God would involve surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus, in other words receiving the gift of salvation with the full realization that there is no way you could ever earn it.

 

Luke 2:15 As soon as the heavenly messengers disappeared into heaven, the shepherds were buzzing with conversation.

 

Shepherds: Let’s rush down to Bethlehem right now! Let’s see what’s happening! Let’s experience what the Lord has told us about!

 

The shepherds were eager to go and see what the angel had reported to them, this awesome baby King.

 

Luke 2:16 So they ran into town, and eventually they found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the feeding trough. After they saw the baby, 17 they spread the story of what they had experienced and what had been said to them about this child. 18 Everyone who heard their story couldn’t stop thinking about its meaning. 19 Mary, too, pondered all of these events, treasuring each memory in her heart.

 

20 The shepherds returned to their flocks, praising God for all they had seen and heard, and they glorified God for the way the experience had unfolded just as the heavenly messenger had predicted.

 

The shepherds didn’t just talk about going to Bethlehem, they did it right away. They found everything just as the angel had described it. Then they became a holy news crew spreading the Good News to all who would hear them. I’m sure the people were wondering, “Could this really be the Messiah?” Mary wanted to file these memories in her heart, perhaps to be able to recount these wondrous things to Jesus as He grew.

 

The shepherds’ response is to glorify God. They did not chalk it all up to some kind of psychological breakdown but realized they had seen something divine and totally real. At some point they may have wondered, “If we tell people this, will anyone believe us, or are we going to be locked away forever?” But God revealed Himself to them in such a mighty way that they could not doubt the reality of the encounter. No matter what happened they were going to faithfully announce this Good News wherever they went no matter the consequences.

 

APPLY THIS TO YOUR LIFE:

 

1. Make room amid the busyness of this season, for Jesus to break through into your thoughts and actions. Do not relegate Him to the stable of your life.

2. Do not confine Jesus to two or three holidays in your year or even one day a week. Celebrate and worship every day with your entire being!

3. Remember that Jesus revealed Himself to the lowest of society. We should tell His story with words and actions to all people groups.

4. Seek peace with God through a relationship with Jesus, and continue to have peace in your life as you obey God.

5. Spread the Gospel even if people discourage you by their response. As Christians we are here to please the Audience of One. It is our job to present the way to salvation, but it is the work of the Holy Spirit to draw the person.

 

Incarnation Contemplation - Annunciations

Posted on December 16, 2015 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (0)

The Lord sent an angel to make three very important announcements. Zacharias and his barren wife would conceive the forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist.  Gabriel informed first Mary, then Joseph about their roles in the birth of the Messiah. These ordinary people were an integral part of God's extraordinary plan of redemption for a lost and fallen world.

Zacharias was a priest serving in the temple, taking his turn (only one in his life) to enter the Holy of Holies. His wife, Elizabeth, was past the age of childbearing and they had no children. God’s messenger shocked and surprised him by appearing in the Holy place and speaking to him.

 

Luke1:13-17 Messenger: Zacharias, your prayers have been heard. Your wife is going to have a son, and you will name him John. 14 He will bring you great joy and happiness—and many will share your joy at John’s birth.

 

15 This son of yours will be a great man in God’s sight. He will not drink alcohol in any form; instead of alcoholic spirits, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the time he is in his mother’s womb. 16 Here is his mission: he will turn many of the children of Israel around to follow the path to the Lord their God. 17 Do you remember the prophecy about someone to come in the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; someone who will turn the hearts of the parents back to their children; someone who will turn the hearts of the disobedient to the mind-set of the just and good? Your son is the one who will fulfill this prophecy: he will be the Lord’s forerunner, the one who will prepare the people and make them ready for God.

 

This son came to be known as John the Baptist, who would be the one who announced the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It is significant that Gabriel stated that John would be “filled with the Holy Spirit” even before he was born!

 

Luke 1:26-29 Six months later in Nazareth, a city in the rural province of Galilee, the heavenly messenger Gabriel made another appearance. This time the messenger was sent by God 27 to meet with a virgin named Mary, who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David himself. 28 The messenger entered her home.

 

Messenger: Greetings! You are favored, and the Lord is with you! [Among all women on the earth, you have been blessed.]

 

29 The heavenly messenger’s words baffled Mary, and she wondered what type of greeting this was.

 

Mary was favored in the sense the God extended grace to her for the assignment of bringing forth the redeemer of the whole world.

 

Luke 1:30-34 Messenger: 30 Mary, don’t be afraid. You have found favor with God. 31 Listen, you are going to become pregnant. You will have a son, and you must name Him “Savior,” or Jesus. 32 Jesus will become the greatest among men. He will be known as the Son of the Highest God. God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David, 33 and He will reign over the covenant family of Jacob forever.

 

Mary: 34 But I have never been with a man. How can this be possible?

Mary, understandably, was astonished at the news that she would be pregnant since she and Joseph were not married yet, and she was a virgin. She must have been terrified and confused. Also, she would have no one to share her troubles with since probably no one would believe her. Keep in mind, this was a private conversation between Mary and Gabriel. Talking to anyone else, surely they would have deemed her crazy. Or worse, stoned her as unfaithful to her betrothed.

 

Messenger: 35 The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The Most High will overshadow you. That’s why this holy child will be known, as not just your son, but also as the Son of God. 36 It sounds impossible, but listen—you know your relative Elizabeth has been unable to bear children and is now far too old to be a mother. Yet she has become pregnant, as God willed it. Yes, in three months, she will have a son. 37 So the impossible is possible with God.

 

Gabriel answered Mary’s question, and assured her of God’s power to perform this miracle in her by telling her of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. I find the statement in verse 37 particularly comforting: "So the impossible is possible with God." AMEN

Mary (deciding in her heart): 38 Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant. As you have said, let it be done to me.

 

Hearing the angel’s answer to her question, Mary submitted and committed herself to the process of conception, pregnancy, and birth of the Redeemer Jesus in accordance with the Father’s will. She must have known she would be subjecting herself to ridicule, gossip, and even the possibility of stoning or banishment. At the risk of all these things, she humbly submitted anyway.

 

Luke 1:38b-45 And the heavenly messenger was gone. 39 Mary immediately got up and hurried to the hill country, in the province of Judah, 40-41 where her cousins Zacharias and Elizabeth lived. When Mary entered their home and greeted Elizabeth, who felt her baby leap in her womb, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

 

Elizabeth (shouting): 42 You are blessed, Mary, blessed among all women, and the child you bear is blessed! 43 And blessed I am as well, that the mother of my Lord has come to me! 44 As soon as I heard your voice greet me, my baby leaped for joy within me. 45 How fortunate you are, Mary, for you believed that what the Lord told you would be fulfilled.

 

Mary quickly took a trip to visit her relatives and see for herself the miracle of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Mary may have needed to avoid prying eyes and whispering lips as her own pregnancy developed. John, who Gabriel foretold would be filled with the Spirit in the womb, leapt when Mary greeted His mother. An UNBORN baby was the first to recognize the Savior while HE was yet UNBORN. This is a strong argument for the fact that an embryo is already the person God is forming inside their mother.

 

 

Embryo John’s reaction, caused Elizabeth who was also filled with the Holy Spirit to rejoice as well. Elizabeth called Mary “the mother of my Lord,” which says that she already believed Jesus would be the Messiah. The Holy Spirit prompted Elizabeth to honor Mary’s faith in believing the Lord.

 

Luke 1:46 Mary: My soul lifts up the Lord!

47 My spirit celebrates God, my Liberator!

48 For though I’m God’s humble servant,

God has noticed me.

Now and forever,

I will be considered blessed by all generations.

49 For the Mighty One has done great things for me;

holy is God’s name!

50 From generation to generation,

God’s lovingkindness endures

for those who revere Him.

51 God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds.

The proud in mind and heart,

God has sent away in disarray.

52 The rulers from their high positions of power,

God has brought down low.

And those who were humble and lowly,

God has elevated with dignity.

53 The hungry—God has filled with fine food.

The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands.

54 To Israel, God’s servant,

God has given help,

55 As promised to our ancestors,

remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever.

 

Mary broke out rejoicing in song, humbly praising the Lord for all He was doing through her. In the Magnificat, she was announcing prophetic reality that God would bring forth, in the fullness of time, the bringing down of the proud and elevation of the humble. He would fulfill His promise to Abraham to redeem His people. Galatians 4:4-5 (NASB) “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

 

Annunciation to Joseph:

 

Matthew 1:18 So here, finally, is the story of the birth of Jesus the Anointed (it is quite a remarkable story):

 

Mary was engaged to marry Joseph, son of David. They hadn’t married. And yet, some time well before their wedding date, Mary learned that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, because he was kind and upstanding and honorable, wanted to spare Mary shame. He did not wish to cause her more embarrassment than necessary.

 

In the Jewish culture of that day, parents chose a mate for their children, sometimes while they were still quite young. From that point, they were considered engaged. When they came of age, a date was set for the wedding and the man began preparing a place for his bride to live. At this point they were considered “betrothed” and if they decided not to marry, the man would need to divorce his wife. With the assumption that Mary had been unfaithful to her betrothed husband, Joseph could have had her publicly humiliated and even STONED TO DEATH as an adulteress! So Joseph was going to do an extremely kind thing in divorcing her quietly and sending her away from the prying eyes of their home town.

 

Matthew 1:20 Now when Joseph had decided to act on his instincts, a messenger of the Lord came to him in a dream.

 

Messenger of the Lord: Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to wed Mary and bring her into your home and family as your wife. She did not sneak off and sleep with someone else—rather, she conceived the baby she now carries through the miraculous wonderworking of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will have a son, and you will name Him Jesus, which means “the Lord saves,” because this Jesus is the person who will save all of His people from sin.

 

God sent an angel to explain the situation to Joseph in a dream. I’m sure Mary had tried to give Joseph an explanation, but he probably found it hard to believe. God sent Gabriel, the angel announcer of Heaven, to let Joseph know not to fear going ahead with the plan to marry Mary because it was part of God’s redemptive plan. He let Joseph in on a bit of the divine masterplan.

 

Matthew 1:24 Joseph woke up from his dream and did exactly what the messenger had told him to do: he married Mary and brought her into his home as his wife 25 (though he did not consummate their marriage until after her son was born). And when the baby was born, Joseph named Him Jesus, Savior.

 

Joseph realized this dream was truly from the Lord God and obeyed what the angel told him. Joseph restrained his physical, human desire for intimacy and kept Mary chaste until after Jesus was born. He named the baby Jesus as the angel had instructed him.

 

Matthew 1:22 Years and years ago, Isaiah, a prophet of Israel, foretold the story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus:

 

23 A virgin will conceive and bear a Son,

and His name will be Immanuel

(which is a Hebrew name that means “God with us”).

 

 

This miraculous birth fulfilled one of the many prophecies concerning the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, Jesus. Zachariah and Elizabeth were blessed to be chosen by God to bring forth the forerunner of the Redeemer. Mary and Joseph were given the honor and responsibility of parenting the very Son of God.


APPLY THIS TO YOUR LIFE:

1. Whatever your situation, it is not hopeless. Our God is still mighty. He answered Zachariah's prayer for a son. When you are aligned with His will, He still answers prayer today. Seek His answer to your needs.

2. Mary's response to God's plan for her was humble.  When God uses you in a mighty way, remember to give Him all the glory and credit. You are just the vessel to carry His blessings to others.

3. Joseph obeyed the message from the angel immediately and completely. This is true obedience. Ask yourself whether or not you are obeying God wholeheartedly.


 

Incarnation Contemplation - Messianic Prophecy

Posted on December 9, 2015 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Messianic Prophecies

 

This is not an exhaustive study on the messianic prophecies, but this sampling will enable the reader to see that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament promises of a Savior for Israel, and for all who would believe.

 

Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

 

This is the very first prophecy concerning the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord Jesus. God Himself told the serpent that he will bruise the heel of Eve’s seed (her child), but the child will bruise the serpent’s head. This is much more than a snake strikes at the foot, and we stomp it on the head and kill it. Crucifixion, the manner in which Jesus died, “bruises” the heel as the spikes are driven into the feet. Satan, in this way, would bruise the heel of the promised One. But Jesus completely defeated Satan by His sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection – a fatal blow to the head. Usually we use the word seed to refer to the offspring of a man, but in this case, since Jesus was not born of an earthly man but of the woman Mary by the power of God, it is a woman’s seed that crushes our enemy.

 

God was the first one to announce the promise and the proclamation of redemption. I think it is significant that He did this just after they were banished from Eden for their sin. He still desired them to have hope because He knew what was to come.

 

Isaiah 7:14 (ESV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

 

Jesus is given as a sign. Jesus IS the Lord, but He came in human form. The Lord reduced Himself to an embryo to become not King, but Servant.

 

It is significant that Jesus was conceived inside a virgin’s womb without benefit of mortal man’s sperm (seed), not only because it was miraculous for a virgin to give birth, but also this confirms that He is truly the begotten son of God the Father. Therefore He would be called Immanuel which means “God with us”. Read also Philippians chapter 2.

 

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 The people who walk in darkness

Will see a great light;

Those who live in a dark land,

The light will shine on them…

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;

And the government will rest on His shoulders;

And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,

On the throne of David and over his kingdom,

To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness

From then on and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

 

Jesus was born after 400 years with no prophetic word from the Lord. The people were in darkness, having been conquered by the Greeks and then the Romans. They were in tremendous mourning and grieving from defeat. They were looking for Messiah but expected Him to reign on an earthly throne and conquer their enemies. However, in His first appearance in the flesh on earth, Jesus came as a tiny, helpless baby and ultimately died on a cross as the perfect sacrifice. The rest of this prophecy will be fulfilled when Jesus returns and reigns and rules for 1000 years on earth. A reign of peace, joy, and prosperity. After the millennial reign, Christ’s reign continues eternally according to the prophecy concerning David’s throne. Satan will be dealt with once and for all and those who have believed the Lord will be with Him eternally as the New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven to the New Earth bringing His glory to be with us forevermore!

 

Notice the names the Messiah will be called. Wonderful Counselor illustrates that Jesus is the one person that understands when no one else can understand what we are going through. He is the Mighty God which means that He is all powerful and able to deliver us. As Eternal Father, Jesus is the fullness of God bodily. Colossians 2:9 "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form." It is a difficult concept to wrap our finite minds around, but Jesus is completely God while being completely man! Jesus is the Prince of Peace because His dying on the cross in our place, is the only way we could have peace with God. Jesus is the bridge of peace between God and humanity. Without Him and His sacrifice, there is a great chasm between the Father and man that can never be crossed. Once we have accepted the free gift of salvation He purchased for us on the cross, we have access to perfect peace. Philippians 4:6-7 (NASB) “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 

Isaiah 11:1 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

 

Jesse was King David’s father. This foretold the fact that Jesus would be born in the lineage of David, fulfilling God’s promise to David that there would be a king from his line eternally. Both Mary and Joseph (Jesus’ earthly adoptive father) were from the line of David.

 

Micah 5:2 (NASB)

 

Birth of the King in Bethlehem

2 “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,

Too little to be among the clans of Judah,

From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.

His goings forth are from long ago,

From the days of eternity.”

 

 

Matthew 2:4-6 (VOICE)

 

4 So Herod called all of the leading Jewish teachers, the chief priests and head scribes, and he asked them where Hebrew tradition claimed the long-awaited Anointed One would be born.

 

Scribes and Priests: 5 An ancient Hebrew prophet, Micah, said this:

 

6 But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are no poor relation—

For from your people will come a Ruler

who will be the shepherd of My people Israel.

 

Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in the small town of Bethlehem (the city David lived in). Notice this prophecy is quoted when Herod asked the Scribes and Priests where the Anointed One (Christ) would be born.

 

There was never a time when Jesus was not. The only time the Jesus compressed Himself into the limits of Time was when He came to be on earth and take human form. He was the One who created the earth. John’s gospel calls him The Word or The Voice of God.

 

John 1:1-5 (VOICE) Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking.

The Voice was and is God.

2 This celestial Word remained ever present with the Creator;

3 His speech shaped the entire cosmos.

Immersed in the practice of creating,

all things that exist were birthed in Him.

4 His breath filled all things

with a living, breathing light—

5 A light that thrives in the depths of darkness,

blazes through murky bottoms.

It cannot and will not be quenched.

 

Jesus miraculous birth to a virgin girl from the lineage of King David while in the town of Bethlehem was foretold hundreds of years before its actual occurrence in time on the earth.

 

Galatians 4:4-6 (VOICE) When the right time arrived, God sent His Son into this world (born of a woman, subject to the law) 5 to free those who, just like Him, were subject to the law. Ultimately He wanted us all to be adopted as sons and daughters. 6 Because you are now part of God’s family, He sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts; and the Spirit calls out, “Abba, Father.”

 

APPLY THIS TO YOUR LIFE:

 

1. Take some time to meditate on the miraculous predictions concerning Jesus’ birth.

2. Praise Him for His love in becoming one of us in order to make a way for us to become His brothers and sisters, adopted into the Father’s forever family.

3. Has the Spirit quickened your heart to believe these truths about Jesus? Have you accepted the free gift of eternal life? Romans 6:23 "The payoff for a life of sin is death, but God is offering us a free gift—eternal life through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King."

 

Incarnation Contemplation - Introduction

Posted on December 2, 2015 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Between now and the end of the year, we plan to do some studies on what I like to call "Incarnation Contemplation".  As an intro to the topic, I am reposting some thoughts and quotes I put together in the last few years. Come back in a few days for a study on Messianic Prophecy - the foretelling of Jesus' incarnation in the Old Testament.

Incarnation Contemplation

 

Following are some of my favorite quotes, scriptures, song lyrics, and my own thoughts on the incarnation – Christ taking on flesh and bone to reach and save me.

 

“IF YOU WANT to get the hang of it [incarnation], think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.” C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” John 1 (NIV)

 

“You must understand why it is that the Word of the Father, so great and so high, has been made manifest in bodily form. He has not assumed a body as proper to His own nature, far from it, for as the Word He is without body. He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men. We will begin, then with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the fist fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning. There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it in the beginning.” From On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius (known for discourses against Arianism)

 

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:10-14 (NIV)

 

"He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.

His final word was Jesus: He needed no other one.

Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way divine.

And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

 

And so the Light became alive and manna became man.

Eternity stepped into time so we could understand.

 

From “The Final Word” words & music by Michael Card 

Watch Michael Card performing "The Final Word"  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuUF152hV9o

 

Michael Card’s lyrics help to write important truths of God on my heart rather than just in my memory. He is not the first lyricist to use the concept of manna becoming man. One of my favorite childhood memories is listening to a Christmas album that was a collection of songs performed by famous artists. I loved the Latin “Panis Angelicus” because of it’s lovely melody and the rich baritone voice of the singer. A couple of years ago I looked up the translation of the lyrics by using the latin dictionary at http://lysy2.archives.nd.edu/cgi-bin/WORDS.EXE.

 

Panis angelicus fit panis hominum, Bread of angels became bread of man

Dat panis coelicus figures terminum, Give Bread of heaven limited form.

O res mirabilis manducat Dominum, Oh, astonishing fact! Devour the Lord.

Pauper, pauper, servus et humilis. Poor man, servant and humble.


 

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19


 

“Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, but stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. Philippians 2:5-7 (AMP)

Philip Yancey gives a great illustration in his book The Jesus I Never Knew. On pages 38 and 39, he describes taking care of the fish in a salt-water aquarium. In spite of all his efforts on their behalf and being to them like a deity, they only feared him. He realized the only way they could ever understand that he would not hurt them would be if he could become a fish and speak their language. Christ became one of us, so we could understand his love.

 

Play Dough People

By Karen Sue Hale - May 17, 2000

 

Imagine for a moment that you have the power to make little people, plants, and animals from Play Dough® that really come to life. You create an entire world of these Play Dough® creatures and provide the necessary plant life, water, and oxygen to continue to support their lives in your created world. You have ultimate power over them, provide all their needs, and are, in comparison to them, a giant. Therefore, they worship you as their “god.”

Time passes, but all is not well in Play Dough® World. There are disagreements among the people and even violence at times. Some of them abuse their spouses or children. Some of them are lazy and expect the other Play Dough® people to take care of them even though they do nothing to contribute to society in Play Dough® World. Those who do work to provide for their families complain most of the time. Many of them have forgotten you exist. They not only fail to worship you as “god” but teach their children that you are a myth because, after all, it is irrational to believe in all-powerful giants.

You have a choice. You can either smash them all flat and destroy them as they deserve, or you can choose to become on of them to help them understand you better and then die for them. Would you die for your Play Dough® people?

News Flash! We are the Play Dough® people and our Creator did die for us!

 

Genesis 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.”

 

Job 10:9 “Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again?”

 

Psalm 24:1-2 “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”

 

Psalm 103:13-14 “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”

 

Romans 5:6-8 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

 

Again, Philip Yancey, captures the essence of the Incarnation on page 36 of The Jesus I Never Knew in a section called “Humble”:

 

Humble. Before Jesus, almost no pagan author had used “humble” as a compliment. Yet the events of Christmas point inescapably to what seems like an oxymoron: a humble God. The God who came to earth, came not in a raging whirlwind nor in a devouring fire. Unimaginably, the Maker of all things shrank down, down, down, so small as to become an ovum, a single fertilized egg barely visible to the naked eye, an egg that would divide and re-divide until a fetus took shape, enlarging cell by cell inside a nervous teenager….The God who roared, who could order armies and empires about like pawns on a chessboard, this God emerged in Palestine as a baby who could not speak or eat solid food or control his bladder, who depended on a teenage couple for shelter, food, and love.”

 

Back to Michael Card from his song “Immanuel” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSEqXbnOrQU:

 

A sign shall be given, a virgin will conceive

A human baby bearing undiminished deity.

The glory of the nations, a light for all to see

And hope for all who will embrace His warm reality.


 

 

 

One more Michael Card song:

 

To the Mystery http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDi4tMU3Ss8

Words & music by Michael Card

 

"When the Father longed to show

A love he wanted us to know,

He sent his only Son and so

Became a Holy Embryo.

 

No fiction as fantastic and wild,

A mother made by her own child.

The helpless Babe who cried

Was God incarnate, man and deified."

 


 

With the humility that Christ demonstrated in his incarnation in mind, how then shall I live?

 

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be fist must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthe2 20:25-28

 

“Sitting sown, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35

 

“We have no right to ask when sorrow comes, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ unless we ask the same question for every joy that comes our way.” Philip S. Bernstein

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindful of Me By Karen Sue Hale

 

The stars twinkle; the moon glows.

The world is huge, but God knows…

He knows I’m thinking, “I’m so small.

How can God know me at all?”

What is man that God would care?

Yet He numbers every hair.

His universe, vast indeed;

Still He meets my every need.

God’s own Son, as Son of man,

Was sacrificed as Father planned.

That I might live eternally,

Laid down His life, set me free.


“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,

the son of man that you care for him?

Psalm 8:3-4

 


Thoughts While Flying Home from Arizona at Night by Karen Sue Hale

February 1981

 

Flying high above it, I realize how really big the world is and how insignificant I am. Yet, in spite of this astounding greatness and vastness, God knows and cares about me as an individual. For He alone understands the spectacle of the universe as well as the tiniest corner of my inmost thought. Not only does He notice the mere particle of life that I am, but He loves me more than anyone else ever could. Because I have given my life to Him, He not only knows where I am; but He is here with me and in me.

As I sit in amazement at the spectacular lights outside my window, I am even more awed by the fact that Jesus dwells in me. I am reassured that Christ continually abides with me, giving me peace and courage. I can face anything because I know He goes before me, leading me and guarding my journey. Life does not frighten me because I know that God is great enough to make life abundantly wonderful. Death presents no fear because the firstborn of the dead, the conqueror of the grave, makes His home in my heart. I praise the Lord that He is magnificent enough to become small enough for me to understand and accept His love!