Monday, December 27, 2010

The Birth of Jesus part 4

Matthew 2:12-23
 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.  And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:  And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. 

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,  In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.  And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
But having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way. This warning by God leads you to believe that He was directly communicating with these men, and that their role in this circumstance was by divine design. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph also in a dream, giving him a warning from God. This news was not of joy or hope but of danger requiring immediate action. Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.  We do not know the length of time the family stayed in Egypt only that they were there. It is likely their stay in Egypt lasted not more that a few months awaiting the death of Herod. The primary reason for the family’s going to Egypt is told through the prophet Hosea that scripture might be fulfilled saying, “Out of Egypt did I call My Son”( Hosea 11:1).

History teaches us that Herod was a cruel and merciless man. He was extremely jealous, suspicious, and afraid of loosing his position and power. Fearing this possible threat, he had the high priest, who was his wife’s brother drowned. He then had his wife killed, and then her mother and two of his own sons. Five days before his death (about a year after the birth of Jesus) he had a third son executed. One great evidence of his severe cruelty was having the most  prominent citizens of Jerusalem arrested and imprisoned shortly before his death. Because he knew no one would mourn his own death, he gave orders for those prisoners to be executed the moment he died to guarantee that there would be mourning in Jerusalem. He ordered all male children under the age of two years old to be murdered in Bethlehem and in the surrounding areas in hopes of killing any threat to the throne.
Arise and take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel: for those who sought the Child’s life are dead. After leaving Egypt, Joseph was fearful to take Mary and Jesus back to Bethlehem hearing that Archelaus, Herod’s son, was now ruler in Judaea. Archelaus was a harsh ruler as was his father and so being warned in a dream, he journeyed to Nazareth that it might be be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
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Nazareth was an lowly little town 70 miles outside Jerusalem to the north. It was a place of humble importance and nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament. Some have said that Matthew is using “Nazarene” as a synonym for someone who is despised or loathsome--for that was how people were often characterized from that region. (John 1:46) And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. (Isaiah 53:3) He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Thought: We must keep in mind that God is bigger than any plan that Satan may have or had to destroy Jesus. He is the sovereign of this universe and His promises are definite and trustworthy. God promised that the Christ Child would come, be born, pay the price for our sins by dying on the cross, raise from the grave, and ascend into Heaven. He fulfilled every prophecy; Oh, praise His Holy name. May you have a very Merry Christmas and be mindful that Christ is the focus and reason for this most wonderful time of the year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Birth of Jesus part 3

Matthew 2:1-11

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,  Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.  And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,  And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.  Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Bethlehem, a small village five or six miles south of Jerusalem was clearly expected by Hebrew scholars to be the birthplace of the Messiah. The little town was cradled between two ridges located along the main ancient highway from Jerusalem to Egypt. Bethlehem meaning “house of bread” would give meaning to the name declared in John 6:33-35: For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 

Wise men from the East came to worship Him who is called, “King of the Jews.” They were not kings, but magi, astrologers and possibly scholars from Persia whose knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures could be traced back to the time of Daniel. The exact number is not given but is thought to be three from the traditional idea that there were three gifts they brought to give to the Child. We are not told how God caused the magi to know that the King of the Jews had been born, only that He gave them the sign of His star in the east.
The star, His star, was not a supernova (a star that suddenly increases greatly in brightness because of a catastrophic explosion that ejects most of it mass) as some suggest, but because of the way the star moved and settled over one place it was more likely a supernatural physical existence similar to the Shekinah ( glory of the Lord) that guided the Israelites in the days of Moses (Ex. 13:21).
Herod asked the wise men or magi to search for the Child diligently and when they had found Him, bring back news of where He was so he too, could come and worship Him. Herod, in truth, didn’t want to worship Jesus but actually wanted to kill the Child whom he saw as a potential threat to his throne. 
By the time the wise men had arrived, Mary and Joseph were now living in a house not a stable. Matthew makes it known that the magi fell down and worshipped Him and not Mary giving Him treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 
Gold throughout history has always been considered the most precious of metals and the common symbol of material value and wealth. Matthew undoubtedly presents Christ as King and here in this account He is appropriately being presented with royal gifts of gold.
Frankincense was a costly, magnificent smelling incense that was used only for the most special of occasions. It was used in certain royal processions and sometimes at weddings and also used in the grain offerings at the Tabernacle and Temple.

Myrrh was a perfume, not quite so expensive as frankincense but yet very valuable. Myrrh was mixed with other spices and used in preparation of bodies for burial, even Jesus’ body (John 19:39).
Thought:  It amazes me that our God in His immense greatness and matchless wisdom would orchestrate such a design of life changing events for the world to behold and embrace. To imagine a star moving in the heavens, guiding men from a far off country to follow this phenomenon, then falling down and worshiping the Child, while presenting Him with costly gifts fit for a King. Satan’s plan was to destroy the baby Jesus using Herod ‘s fear of potential threat to his throne but God through His prophets had foretold hundreds of years before of the miraculous birth of Christ and  none can stay His hand  (Daniel 4:35). God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? (Numbers 23:19) The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: (Isaiah 14:24).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Birth of Jesus part 2

Matthew 1:20-25

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

There are only a few angelic visitations in the New Testament, most of which are associated with Christ’s birth. When the angel appeared to Joseph he told him not to fear what was happening to Mary and gave him instruction that the Child’s name would be called, “JESUS.” The name Jesus, actually means “Saviour” coming from the Hebrew name Joshua (Jehovah is Salvation). In the days of Mary and Joseph, there were no special machines to tell a child’s gender only the miraculous working of God through an angel could bring such remarkable news.
Many, so called Bible scholars, have tried to dispute whether the Hebrew term in Isaiah 7:14 actually means “virgin”  or maiden, I would like to assure you, it does mean “virgin.” The supernatural birth of Jesus is the only way to account for the life that He lived here on earth before sinful men. Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Immanuel means “GOD WITH US” which describes who He is and distinguishes Him above all others. 
Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.  The word “know or knew” is a euphemism for sexual intimacy, a mild or indirect expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt. Joseph did not have a sexual relationship with his wife before the Christ Child was born which reinforces the truth of Jesus’ divine conception.

Thought:  Philippians 2:9-11 says: Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Our Lord has a name, that name is Jesus, in which one day all will bow their knee and confess that He is Lord to the glory of God. The Word of God promised that the Son of God would come to dwell with man in human flesh and live a life of supernatural power as our Saviour and coming King. During this special time of year, remember Him for whom this holiday is set aside for and that His name, “IMMANUEL” undoubtedly means, “GOD WITH US.”

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Birth of Jesus


Matthew 1:16,18-23

 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.  Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.  But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.  And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,  Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Genealogies were very important to the Jews, for without them they could not prove what tribe they were members of or their rights to inheritances. As we read Matthew’s account of the birth of Christ, we see that he, Matthew, did not write, “and Joseph begat Jesus.” Matthew gave our Lord’s lineage through His foster father, Joseph, and Luke gave Mary’s lineage which was like Joseph, of the tribe of Judah and the lineage of David. Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; (Romans 1:3). The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne (Psalm 132:11).

Joseph being espoused to Mary was a binding marriage and could only be terminated by divorce. Though the betrothal couple were regarded legally as husband and wife, the physical union had not yet taken place. Stoning was the legal prescription for adultery (see Deut. 22:23-24).  Joseph being a “just man” a man that was a true believer in God had every right according to the law to stone her or put her away by a legal divorce. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 1:20).
What a good and faithful husband Joseph was to Mary. He had every right to put her away but listened to the angel which came to him in a dream. I am sure no one ever looked at Mary and Joseph the same after they knew of her conception. Even though prophecy was being fulfilled, there were those who would never believe that Mary had done things right. True faith trusts in God even when things appear very perplexing and troublesome.
Thought: Mary was highly favored of the Lord and relied on Him when life seemed extremely trying and difficult. Though we have not been chosen to carry the Christ Child, we can be confident that His purpose for our life is worthy of our giving thanks and knowing in His sovereignty all things concerning us work together for our good. May we center our attention on the person of Christ and not on the difficulty of the situation. We thank God Mary’s heart was centered on obeying the Lord and by faith she trusted Him with the prophecies foretold long ago. Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).