31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 6 – Daniel’s prophecy

the-book-of-daniel

Daniel is still a well-known figure today, almost 2600 years after he lived. He was a contemporary of Confucius’ day. Though we mostly only know Daniel by his first name, we associate him with such incredible life stories as Daniel in the Lion’s Den (when he was 83 years old!), Daniel in the Fiery Furnace, The Handwriting on the Wall, and his interpretation of dreams. He predicted the coming of the Messiah and the exact date of Jesus’ death – 600 years before it happened!

Daniel was a Jewish prophet and known to be a good man. Even his enemies regarded him as a man of integrity and faith. Though he was in captivity in Babylonia, King Nebuchadnezzar elevated him to a high rank in his kingdom. Nothing negative has ever been written about Daniel. Jesus quoted him in Matthew 24:15 when talking about current and end times prophecies. Daniel has proven to be one we can trust. And when you add up the math of his predictions about Jesus, it cannot be easily dismissed.

When reading Daniel’s prophecy below, a “week” represents a 7-year period instead of 7 days, so it is to be multiplied by 7 to get the number of years. I have added the explanations in parenthesis.

Daniel 9:20-27
While I was speaking, praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my petition before Yahweh my God concerning the holy mountain of my God— while I was praying, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the first vision, came to me in my extreme weariness, about the time of the evening offering.  He gave me this explanation:

Seventy weeks are decreed (70 x 7=490 years)
about your people and your holy city—
to bring the rebellion to an end,  
to put a stop to sin,

to wipe away iniquity,
to bring in everlasting righteousness,
to seal up vision and prophecy,
and to anoint the most holy place.
Know and understand this:

From the issuing of the decree
to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (rebuild the temple)
until Messiah the Prince

will be seven weeks and 62 weeks. (7 x 7=49 years, 62 x 7=434 years)
It will be rebuilt with a plaza and a moat,
but in difficult times.
(the temple was rebuilt from 445-396 BC in 49 years)
(434 years later, Jesus has the triumphal entry into Jerusalem before His death)

After those 62 weeks
the Messiah will be cut off (put to death)

and will have nothing.
The people of the coming prince (anti-Christ)
will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end will come with a flood,
and until the end there will be war;
desolations are decreed.
He will make a firm covenant
with many for one week, (1 x 7=7 years of tribulation in the future)
but in the middle of the week
he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. (anti-Christ will turn on the people)
And the abomination of desolation
will be on a wing of the temple
until the decreed destruction
is poured out on the desolator.

The entire decree is 70 weeks or 490 years. It begins with 49 years to rebuild the temple after the exile, then 434 years until the Messiah is killed, and the remaining 7 years is to happen in the future end times with the anti-Christ. Daniel predicted the rebuilding of the temple, the coming Messiah, and the end-times with the anti-Christ. But Daniel isn’t the only one to talk of these things. The validity of the Bible is found in many sources, over many years. Jesus talked about it and often referred to the Old Testament. Paul mentioned it in the book of 2 Thessalonians and John in the book of Revelation.

I pray that you will not be fearful of the times still to come, but rejoice in the assurance we can have now in knowing the Messiah who has already come! Jesus came not to judge the world but to save it. It is a free gift of salvation available to everyone, but it is up to each of us to accept it and believe.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas story from Genesis to John: Day 5 – Jehoiakim’s curse

mary-and-joseph-travel-to-bethlehem

This is one of my favorite, little-known stories in the Bible, and it makes all the difference in the world. The plot thickens as the fate of the nation of Israel and the much-talked about prophecy of the Messiah seems doomed.

The nation of Israel fell on hard times after King David’s reign. Their hopes and dreams to be a great nation that would be a blessing to all nations was shattered. By about 600 BC, the nation had become divided and exiled from their homeland because of their idolatry and worshiping of other gods, something God had specifically warned them against. The magnificent temple that David’s son, King Solomon had built and stood for 400 years was destroyed. The once-great kingdom was divided. The northern kingdom, called Israel, was exiled to Assyria. The southern kingdom, called Judah, was exiled to Babylonia. The northern kingdom never had another good king and would never return to their land, but the southern kingdom of Judah, whose capital city was Jerusalem, still held to the promise that the line of David would always sit on the throne.

Several famous prophets arose during this time – Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. They warned the people to turn back to God or face judgement, and to remind them about the hope of the coming Messiah. Jeremiah was the last prophet to speak before Jerusalem was destroyed. During this time, Jehoiakim was the King of Judah and was very evil. He heavily taxed the people and had them build an extravagant palace for him without paying them for their labor. He even burned the scroll that Jeremiah wrote. God was angry with Jehoiakim and cursed him through the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 22:30
Therefore this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah:
“Record this man as if childless,
a man who will not prosper in his lifetime,
for none of his offspring will prosper,
none will sit on the throne of David
or rule anymore in Judah.”

Jehoiakim was so evil that God cursed him and his offspring – the very line of David. And this curse seems to void the unconditional Davidic covenant that said the Messiah would inherit the throne through an heir from David’s line. If none of Jehoiakim’s descendents, as heirs to the line of David, could ever sit on the throne again in Judah, how could this prophecy be fulfilled? And the curse came true. Jehoiakim’s descendents never did sit on the throne again. All hope seemed lost forever. But what may look to be humanly impossible is always possible through God. Divine intervention was required.

Fast-forward about 400 years. There had been no more prophets, no word from God, and a doomed curse and impossible way for a Messiah to come. We know the story of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, but is this contradictory to God’s own curse of Jehoiakim? Mary’s husband Joseph was a rightful heir to the throne of David, but neither he nor any of his children could ever sit on the throne of David because he was a descendent of Jehoiakim. The requirement for the prophecy to be fulfilled was that the Messiah must be both an heir to the throne and an offspring in the line of David. It was impossible for one person to fulfill both roles without going against the curse.

Mary was a descendent of Nathan, David’s other son. Nathan was an offspring of David but not an heir to the throne. However, through the virgin birth (a divine intervention), Mary was able to fulfill both. The biological requirement to be in the line of David was fulfilled through Mary. By marriage to her husband Joseph, he fulfilled the legal requirement of being an heir without biologically having an offspring which would violate the curse. Without the divine intervention of a miraculous virgin birth, the Messiah would not have been possible. This is not the only time in the story of the Bible where evil forces try to stop the coming of the Messiah. It is a continuous conflict throughout, but one that never succeeds.

May you have faith in the God who can make all things possible,
the God of miracles, the One who can and always will provide a way of hope. Nothing is impossible for God.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas story from Genesis to John: Day 4 – God chooses a family

harpist

From the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the nation of Israel had increased to over a million people. Their large numbers were seen as a threat and they were held captive in Egypt for 400 years until God calls Moses to lead the people out of bondage to a place called Mt. Sinai (modern day Saudi Arabia). There, God gives them instructions for building a tabernacle for worship, and they soon become an organized people with a system of laws and government. Joshua becomes the next leader and he leads the people into the Promised Land in Canaan, the land God had promised to Abraham.

The nation of Israel is ruled by judges for several years after this until a prophet by the name of Samuel is born. Samuel is the last judge of Israel before the people decide they want to have a king like the other nations. They choose Saul to be their first king, though he later goes mad. God then tells the prophet Samuel to anoint a young man named David from the tribe of Judah to be their next king.

King David is a popular and successful king. But even more importantly, he is chosen by God. The prophet Nathan has a vision for King David, and this becomes the Davidic Covenant. It is an unconditional covenant, which means it cannot be undone by our own actions. It states that an everlasting kingdom will come from the house of David. This becomes the fourth prophecy about the coming Messiah and Savior.

2 Samuel 7:16
“Your house and kingdom will endure before Me forever,
and your throne will be established forever.’”

All three of these things (house, kingdom, and throne) are fulfilled in Jesus, as told by the angel Gabriel to the virgin Mary, who was from the house of David.

Luke 1:32-33
“He will be great
and will be called the Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give Him
the throne of His father David.
He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,
and His kingdom will have no end.”

May you experience the joy and good news that was announced by the angel Gabriel on that night long ago,
when God came down to earth to fulfill His promise of a Savior and a Kingdom that will never end.

 * Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas story from Genesis to John: Day 3 – God chooses a tribe

the-lion-of-the-tribe-of-judahblog

Abraham is chosen by God and becomes the patriarch of the nation of Israel. His son Isaac marries Rebekah and they have twin sons Jacob and Esau. It becomes a family feud between the two brothers which lasts for centuries, and even has a connection to King Herod who attempts to kill the baby Jesus 1700 years later. The two brothers follow different paths. Jacob is given the birthright, takes the name Israel and has 12 sons who become the 12 tribes of Israel. The other brother Esau becomes angry at God, never repents, and his descendants (the Edomites) become a violent nation that is in perpetual conflict with Israel.

Of Jacob’s 12 sons, Judah’s tribe will become the line of King David. And in this third prophecy, it foretells of Judah’s tribe being the line of the coming Messiah – the One whose scepter will not depart and whose right it is to come. 

Genesis 49:1, 8-10
Then Jacob (on his deathbed) called his sons and said,
“Gather around, and I will tell you what will happen to you in the days to come.

Judah, your brothers will praise you.
Your hand will be on the necks of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
Judah is a young lion—
my son, you return from the kill.
He crouches; he lies down like a lion
or a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah
or the staff from between his feet
until He whose right it is comes
and the obedience of the peoples belongs to Him.”

A dying Jacob saw the day of Christ. He lived by faith in the promise of a Messiah to come. We can now live by faith in a Messiah that has already come! We can know Him. The prophecy of Jesus Christ is here.

May you know the peace that only Jesus Christ can bring –
an everlasting peace full of true joy that can never be taken away.

 * Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 2 – God chooses a man to begin a nation

abraham-jesus

Two thousand years have passed between the time of Adam and Eve and when Abraham arrives on the scene. That’s a long time from the first prophecy given in Genesis 3:15. God was certainly patient! Almost everything we know about these first 2000 years of humanity is recorded in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. While God didn’t give us all the details of what occurred and why, there are some very interesting people and events during this time.

Genesis 5 records the genealogy starting with Adam. Adam lived 930 years. Enoch, the father of Methuselah, walked with God and lasted 365 years until “he was no longer there”. He never died but was taken up by God. Methuselah, the oldest man, lived 969 years. But after Methuselah’s time, the world is significantly changed forever. It had become extremely evil and violent, and there was only one righteous man left – Noah, and his family. They were saved by God from the Great Flood which wiped out all the evil and started humanity over again. Life spans were decreased, and the world and climate was changed. Some 700 years later, the people tried to build a monument to their own greatness (calling themselves gods) and worshipping creation instead of the Creator, so God scattered the people into different groups by separating their languages. This became the beginning of different nations.

By the time Abram (later called Abraham) arrived, around 2000 BC, he was living a life of luxury in the city of Ur, now modern day Iraq. The culture had advanced extremely well since the years after the flood and beginning of nations. They were advanced in the areas of arts and sciences, and had been writing for about one thousand years. Their standard of living was high, with the average middle-class home having 10-20 rooms and over 2000 square feet (Archeology and Bible History, Joseph Free, p. 49). But God called Abram out of this life of luxury to lead a nation who would carry God’s story forward through history to all nations. God was ready to begin the prophecy stated in Genesis 3:15. Abram left his former life behind, all for his faith and obedience to God, and the first covenant was created between God and His people. This changed everything. It changed the history of mankind forever, and religion as we know it today was first established.

This is the second prophecy, the Abrahamic Covenant:

Genesis 12:1-3
Go out from your land,
your relatives,
and your father’s house
to the land that I will show you.
 I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse those who treat you with contempt,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

God promised three blessings to Abraham: land, a great nation, and all people will be blessed through you. We are still living out this first covenant today. The land and nation were fulfilled in the later chapters of Genesis, and the third promise – a blessing to all people – has been fulfilled through Jesus Christ, who was a descendent from this nation and the One who came for all people.

May you get to know the God of Abraham this Christmas season.
He is the One who establishes a covenant promise with His people
to never leave or forsake them, and to be a blessing to all people.  

* Merry Christmas *