Christmas 2018 – Day 20

52097-Blessed_Virgin_Mary.800w.tnAs part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 20: We’ll be spending the rest of our time in the New Testament. I would like to look at a couple of the famous characters of this story so today we’ll briefly be looking at Mary. Our introduction to Mary is found in Matthew 1:16.

What do we know about Mary? She was Hebrew (not Catholic!), she was a direct descendant of King David (see Luke 1) and solid biblical scholars think she was between 14 – 16 years old. God chose her out of all time to bear His incarnation. She had to: (1) be a virgin (as we saw in Isaiah 7:14), (2) give birth to a boy (Genesis 3:14) and (3) give birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

Tom Simcox, Bible teacher and trainer, wrote an article titled, “The Woman God Chose,” in the November / December 2017 issue of Israel My Glory . In a section of that article called “Her [Mary’s] Knowledge,” Simcox says, “Mary clearly knew the Hebrew Scriptures and believed them.” He then draws our attention to Luke 1:31-33, 35 which says,

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Simcox concludes with, “Her response showed her absolute trust in the God of Israel: “‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word’” (v. 38).[i] I love that the author drew our attention to Mary’s existing Scriptural knowledge. In my book Biblical Knowledge, Understanding & Wisdom (see it here) I talk about our need for biblical knowledge. The only way this can happen is by reading and hearing from the Bible.

I believe one of the reasons Mary was used by God was because she was rooted in the knowledge God gives through the Scriptures. This Christmas season, lets emulate Mary and others who show us the benefits of reading the Word!

[i] Tom Simcox, “The Woman God Chose,” Israel My Glory, November/December 2017, Volume 75, Number 6, 26-27.

Devotional # 116. Luke 2:1-20 (Special Christmas Devotional)

Devotional # 116. 12/22/14. Luke 2:1-20. Christmas 2014, part 4.

Intro. Now that we’re only a few days away from (American) Christmas our final Christmas Devotional will be from the story of Jesus’ birth. I’ve been thinking a lot about the humility of Jesus during this holiday season. I’ve been reminded by other’s sermons, my own personal reading and conversations with other believers. In Proverbs 18:12 it says, “before honor comes humility.” Jesus demonstrated this by coming to earth in humility but when He came back after His resurrection and when He returns at His Second Coming it will be in honor. As we read through these 20 verses (feel free to read chapter 1 for a fuller understanding) be thinking about how amazing it is that the God of the universe decided to come to earth to reach His creations.

vv. 1-3. Just like most governments who want to know how many people they have, this government conducted a census to count people.

vv. 4-5. A couple weeks ago I mentioned this: that both Joseph and Mary came from the family of David. Now we’re also told that everyone from the lineage of David had to meet in Bethlehem since that was the “city of David.” This fulfills the prophecy about Jesus being born in Bethlehem from Micah 5:2. So Mary went with Joseph because they were betrothed. To be “betrothed” was more than just engaged. In the Hebrew culture it was just like being married except you didn’t live together (or have sex) and you hadn’t had the official marriage ceremony.

v. 6. We’re also reminded that at this time Mary was very pregnant with Jesus. What a rough trip it must have been to be due and going through contractions!

v. 7. It was always God’s plan to have Jesus be born in a barn. Why? Because when Jesus was born to two teenagers in a garage there wasn’t anyone poorer than Him. No one will be able to say, “Jesus can’t love me, I’m too poor.” Not one person can say, “Jesus doesn’t know what I’ve been through, being born in poverty.” Not only that but His parents had to escape to save His life. Can you imagine having lived in three different countries by the time you were two years old because people were hunting you? Jesus knew all of this and yet, in complete humility, not only came to earth like this but planned it even before He created the earth.

vv. 8-12. Again we are reminded of Jesus’ humility. If we know the culture of this time then we recognize that shepherds were outcasts from the rest of the society. They smelled bad, they had the 24 hour job of watching over their sheep and had less then desirable duties. Why did God chose to have the angel announce the birth of the King of the earth to some stinky shepherds? I think there are a couple reasons: 1. God usually uses foolish things to confuse and surprise the rich and the “wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27), 2. To show His humility, 3. To show that He was for all men, not just the rich but of the outcasts and anyone who would accept Him, 4. Because God looks at Himself as a Shepherds of His people (Psalms 77:20; Ezekiel 34:31; etc.). We also see that the angel is joyful that God has finally been born to save men. Although angels are not all-knowing they do have a little more perspective then we who are stuck on earth. They get to proclaim the great plans of the LORD to His people.

Notice two things in what the angel says: 1. That Jesus was sent to “all people” – not only the Hebrews (although He went to them first, as God had promised) but to us Gentiles too! And 2. That this little “Child” was “Christ the Lord”. Proper translation of this is that the baby who was just born was the Savior and Master* of the world. Savior and Master of the world!?! Jesus was truly special to be lauded by angels as the Master of Universe (Before He-Man had that title!) as just a little baby. When we recognize that Jesus is our Master we can begin to worship Him in a correct way.

 

*“Christ the Lord”. Christos (G#5547) means “Savior” and kyrios (G#2962) means “Master”.

vv. 13-14. The initial angel is joined with thousands more of his brethren. Notice that they are praising God. Not just announcing that the Savior had been born, not just telling people where to go to see Him. But they were saying “Glory to God in the highest!” It is the first thing that must be done when anyone recognizes what a great thing it was that Jesus came to earth. We must be encouraged to glorify God, of course in all things, but specifically during this time of year for His goodness in sending us a Savior. Many of us who have spent more time meditating on all the bad stuff we’ve done then on the amazing gift of God’s own Son, need to be reminded to worship Him! To glorify God. So what does that look like? How do we bring honor to His name? The next verses will show us.

vv. 15-20. The shepherds had no question that it was God who spoke to them, they say let’s go check out what “the Lord has made known to us”. And they put their faith into action – they make the trip to see Jesus. Note that they had to leave their flock, they had to leave their comfort zone. They had to go to where other people were, maybe people that would judge them, maybe people that would hurt them but nevertheless they went. And when they saw Him they told everybody (“made widely known”).

Can you imagine being Mary and Joseph? You’ve been ridiculed by everyone for having an unlawful pregnancy, made a horrible trip on a donkey, gave birth in a barn – your life has been pretty bad lately. Then Jesus is finally born and shepherds show up saying that angels told them (of all people!) about the baby. Mary treasured these things in her heart (v. 19). She couldn’t believe that she went from being a nothing to someone that people would come to visit (and later the Magi). But that’s what Jesus does, He takes people who are nothing and He makes them worth something. He blesses them.

This section ends with the shepherds “glorifying and praising God”. So why would they have told so many people and praised God just from seeing a baby? Because the interaction with thousands of angels and seeing the Messiah that had been promised for thousands of years solidified their faith. Remember God had been silent for four hundred years and now that He was speaking to the Hebrews again there was much to rejoice over. We are very blessed that God speaks to us today in so many ways but do we go out and share it with others like the shepherds did?
Conclusion. My prayer for you is that you read the story of Jesus’ birth to your family or friends as you gather together over the next couple of days. Read it to your kids as you gather around the tree or read it at the table as your friends eat a meal. Every year we see people calling it “X-Mas” but taking the Christ out of CHRISTmas leaves you with nothing. But when you recognize that you are nothing without Him then, like Mary, He blesses you and makes you worth something. He came in humility but He deserves your honor (as we read from Proverbs). Just remember to have a truly enjoyable Christmas this year: keep Christ in Christmas.

Devotional # 114. Matthew 1:1-25 (Special Christmas Devotional)

Devotional # 114. 12/8/14. Matthew 1:1-25. Christmas 2014, part 2.

Intro. If you have been a Christian for a long time than you are used to the story of how Jesus was born. You’ve probably heard a sermon on every aspect of the Christmas story. Alastair Begg jokes that he’s looked at Jesus’ birth from a sermon standpoint in so many different ways that he’s thought about doing it from the donkey’s perspective! But even if it’s been told 1 million times in 1 million ways it’s nevertheless powerful. This week I’d like for you to simply read the story. This week the work is on you, it will be you who has to pick up the Bible and read these 25 verses on your own. Why now? Because you still have three weeks to meditate on these things, to share them with your family and to recognize the awesome power of God!

I do want to make a note on the genealogy of Jesus. A genealogy is recording a person’s family, their lineage. This is important because some people say that there is a contradiction here in the Bible and others say that if Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit then Joseph’s lineage doesn’t matter. The list of weird thoughts about Jesus’ earthly parents goes on and on so let’s look at that.

In Matthew 1:1-17 we read Joseph’s lineage (specifically verse 6 says “David the king” and later in verse 20 the angel calls Joseph by the title “son of David”). So Joseph did come from David. But notice verse 11 mentions “Jeconiah” as Joseph’s bloodline. Technically if Joesph was Jesus’ biological father than Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah because in Jeremiah 22:24-30, “Jeconiah” (“Coniah“) is cursed, he and his sons can’t sit on the throne.

In Luke 3:23-38 we read Mary’s bloodline. It’s initially confusing because it says “the son of Joseph, the son of Heli.” So we find that Mary’s dad was “Eli.” There are several possibilities: 1. Jesus could be called “son of Eli” because Eli was his maternal grandfather, his nearest male ancestor (Source 1) or 2. “Joseph son of Eli” could mean “son-in-law” (Source 2) or 3. an adoptive heir through his only daughter, Mary (an example is in 1 Chronicles 2:21-23; 7:14 we see Jair, called “Jair son of Manasseh” but is actually “son of Manasseh’s granddaughter” (Source 3). Also of note: in Numbers 27:7 we find God gave a unique gift to Israelites. Bloodline, and therefore kingship, could pass through women. Other nations didn’t practice this. Interestingly later in Numbers (36:4) when it’s questioned, Moses says the inheritance belongs to the women as long as she marries within her tribe. So we see something truly impossible happen: Jesus has the right to reign on earth because of Mary’s bloodline, as long as she marries from her tribe, and Joseph was! And Jesus had the right to reign in heaven because He is God, born of the Holy Spirit!
Conclusion. According to Hebrews 10:5 (which actually comes from Psalm 40:6), 1 Peter 1:20-21 and Revelation 13:8, etc. we see that the Father had prepared the Son to come to earth before the earth was even created! We worship a God who works miracles and keeps His word. If I was God –  layering on the prophesies for thousands of years, knowing that men like Jeconiah would sin, I would be a nervous wreck! I would be stressed that everything work out perfectly, but thankfully I’m not God. He knows everything and still chooses to weave impossible odds and wicked men’s hearts into His ultimate goal: that men would be saved from the sin that they crave.  Next week I am going to re-send a Devotional from last year. It is the one about the origins of Christmas (as we know it).

References:

Source 1: Maas, Genealogy of Christ, 1913.

Source 2: Lightfoot, Horae Hebraicæ et Talmudicæ, 1859.

Source 3: Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew, 2005.

Devotional #2. Luke 1:26-56

Devotional #2 (10/1/12).  Mary and Elizabeth praise God for their miracles.

Intro: Last week we covered the beginning of Luke which talked about an elderly couple named Zacharias and Elizabeth who hadn’t been able to get pregnant. An angel told Zacharias that they would have a son but Zacharias doubt that could happen so he was rendered unable to speak until the son was born.

This Week’s Reading: Luke 1:26-56.

vv. 26-27. We get the location (Nazareth), the time (Elizabeth was in her “sixth month”, also in v. 36), the people (Mary, Joseph and the angel Gabriel) and the mission (God sent Gabriel to tell Mary the following).

vv. 28-33. Gabriel greets Mary with “Rejoice” because what he was announcing was what the entire world had been waiting for whether they knew it or not. He then tells her she is “highly favored”, that the Lord is with her and she’s “blessed”. How exciting this must have been for her to hear that God favored her and she would receive grace! But she was scared (“troubled”) because of the angel’s presence and she was confused by his ‘hello.’ He tells her she’ll have a son and to call him JESUS. The name in the Greek is “Jesus” meaning “Savior” and in Hebrew is “Jeshua” meaning “the LORD is salvation” which is a direct translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah” from Daniel 9:25 (Source 1). Gabriel continues that Jesus will be on the throne of David and “reign over the house of Jacob” which are references to where His human bloodline came from. But notice for how long Jesus will rule this kingdom: “forever” and “will be no end.” So the kingdom isn’t just here on earth (as we see later, Jesus never ruled anything on earth) but it is one that is spiritual and eternal.

vv. 34-35. Mary says, ‘I’m a virgin, how can I have a baby, I’ve never had sex?’ (confirmed twice in v. 27 above). It isn’t a new thing for people to try and discredit or not believe in the virgin birth – the very woman who would have this miracle happen to her recognized how impossible it was! Notice that the angel explains that it will be the Holy Spirit who puts the baby in her womb. So we see that Jesus was fully God (“Son of God”) and fully human (being in Mary’s womb). For more see Mt. 1:23. God loved us so much He became like His creation to save them from their sins! See Colossians 2:9. All we have to do is recognize that we’re not perfect and accept His gift.

vv. 36-38. Gabriel tells Mary that her relative, Elizabeth, is pregnant. He says “for with God nothing will be impossible.” This is both a reassurance to Mary that the miracle of her virgin birth will happen because of what God has already been doing in Elizabeth and a reassurance to us. Once we recognize that God is greater than we can understand we see that nothing is impossible for Him. If we have a bill and no money to pay it, God can pay that bill. If we have a class we don’t think we can pass, God can help us. In Romans 8:28 it says “all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” The four main things are: “all things”, “good”, “those who love God” and “His purpose.” This means God will make every single thing that happens end up good according to His will (not ours) for the person who loves God. Mary recognized this and agreed with God’s plan (v.38).

In-between these verses the Holy Spirit puts the seed of Jesus into Mary. But we don’t really get an explanation of how. John Simpson explains “…we are concerned here with the entry of the infinite God into his own creation, and this is something that cannot be described, any more than the act of creation itself can be described” (Source 2).

vv. 39-45. We see Mary rush to Elizabeth’s house and when she says “hi” John the Baptist leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. I am a father and I remember when my children would kick in my wife’s belly so Elizabeth would have been used to an active boy’s kicks. But this was something else, this was the Holy Spirit giving confirmation that Mary carried the Messiah. Elizabeth supernaturally knew Mary carried a baby and asks why she was blessed to be in the same room (showing humility). Then a second time she prophesizes, this time that Mary is blessed having God talk to her.

vv. 46-56. Mary responds to Elizabeth with a song praising God. We see that Mary was saturated by God. She says her “soul magnifies the Lord” which is an amazing way to say ‘God shines through me and like a magnifying glass I make Him clear to others.’ In v. 49 she exclaims in the past tense that “God has done great things for me”. This wasn’t in reference to the great things God would do but she was counting her past blessings while looking forward. This incredible woman is pointing out God’s promises are always kept and she praises Him for it.

Summary: Mary and Elizabeth are blessed by God’s miracles and they can do nothing but worship Him. In a culture and age when women were viewed as inferior we see the Bible giving their perspectives as credible and important and that God blessed them greatly! We can learn much from these fantastic role models and yet they were always pointing towards the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in Jesus that we have our Savior since He was tempted in every way like us but never sinned (see Hebrews 4:15). He tells us that He loves us (see John 3:16) yet confirms He is the only way to Heaven (see John 14:6)!

References:

Source 1: MacArthur Study Bible, notes on Matthew, pp. 1393-94.

Source 2: Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible, editor: Alexander, article by John Simpson, p. 515.