31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 18 – Joseph is engaged to Mary

mary_tells_joseph

The Christmas story now switches to the book of Matthew for more details about Mary’s engagement to Joseph. The author Matthew was originally a tax collector, an occupation that was considered the lowest class of sinners in those days. Yet Jesus dines with him and his rebellious group of friends in his home, an act that would have been improper to be associated with such sinners. After the dinner party with Jesus, Matthew gives up everything to follow Jesus and becomes one of his twelve disciples.

In the beginning of the book of Matthew, he lists the genealogy from Abraham to King David, and from David to the Babylonian exile, and from the exile to Joseph, the husband of Mary. Joseph was a legal heir to the throne through King David’s son Solomon but neither he nor his children could be the biological heir because of his ancestor Jehoiakim’s curse from God. The curse states that because of Jehoiakim’s evil ways, none of his descendants would ever sit on the throne. Now, Joseph is told the news that Mary is carrying a holy child. Joseph’s story is certainly no small detail in this Christmas story.

We are not told exactly how Mary told Joseph, but Matthew does give us an account. Can you imagine how that conversation went?

Matthew 1:18-19
“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”

Joseph could have had Mary stoned and saved his own reputation by making a public example of her. Joseph was a carpenter by trade, and this might possibly have affected his business too. Mary, knowing the possibilities that awaited her, still continued on. Joseph must have been a man of great restraint, mercy and humility. He was chosen by God to be Jesus’ earthly father, to provide for him and protect him. What an honor. That was no insignificant thing.

May you reach out to our Heavenly Father, who shows us the way for mercy, love and unending forgiveness.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 9 – Jesus is fully human and fully God

servant-songs

There are four servant songs in the book of Isaiah, which describe the coming Messiah as a servant, a savior, one who will suffer, and one who will be exalted. This second servant song from the prophet Isaiah gives us a glimpse of God’s purpose from the beginning to the end. Jesus was with God from the beginning, and came to earth as a man to serve, suffer, and offer salvation through his death. God’s message is this: salvation for all people, made possible through his servant, Jesus. All four of the servant songs can be found in Isaiah 42:1-9, Isaiah 49:1-13, Isaiah 50:4-11 and Isaiah 52:13-53:12.

The song of the servant, the Messiah.

Isaiah 49:1-6
Coastlands, listen to me;
distant peoples, pay attention.  (for all people)
The Lord called me before I was born.  (Jesus was with God from the beginning)
He named me while I was in my mother’s womb.  (virgin Mary)
He made my words like a sharp sword;
He hid me in the shadow of His hand.  (not to be revealed until the right time)
He made me like a sharpened arrow;
He hid me in His quiver.
He said to me, “You are My Servant, Israel;
I will be glorified in him.”  (Jesus will come through Israel)

But I myself said: I have labored in vain,  (Jesus will suffer)
I have spent my strength for nothing and futility;  (Jesus will be rejected by some)
yet my vindication is with the Lord,
and my reward is with my God.
And now, says the Lord,
who formed me from the womb to be His Servant,
to bring Jacob back to Him  (God’s purpose is to restore His people to Him)
so that Israel might be gathered to Him;  
for I am honored in the sight of the Lord,
and my God is my strength—
He says,
“It is not enough for you to be My Servant
raising up the tribes of Jacob  (in the Tribulation, the 12 tribes will be witnesses)
and restoring the protected ones of Israel.
I will also make you a light for the nations,
to be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”  (through Jesus, salvation is for all)

The Apostle Paul wrote these beautiful words in the first chapter of his letter to the Colossians: “We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” It is a simple but powerful message to all, from the Creator.

May you seek the God of Israel, the God of salvation, your Creator, this Christmas season. 

* 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 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 *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 1 – God’s answer to man’s sin

dovepeaceatchristmas

Please join me for the 31 days of December, as I will be posting a Christmas series which looks at the Christmas story and season in a slightly different way. The story of Jesus and the meaning behind the celebration of Christmas are woven throughout the entire Bible – from the beginning of mankind in Genesis to the resurrection of Jesus as told by the apostle John some 4000 years later.

Genesis 3:15
I will put hostility between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.

This is the first sign of hope that God gives us in the Bible. Adam and Eve have just rebelled against God, and sin is now introduced into the world and humankind. God curses Satan for it. “Your seed” refers to Satan and unbelievers who are called the devil’s children in John 8:44. “Her seed” refers to Christ, a descendent of Eve through the virgin Mary and includes believers in Christ. This first prophecy of a Savior to come says that Satan will strike Jesus’ heel, but Jesus will give the final blow to Satan’s head and destroy him.

In Genesis 3:13, just prior to this prophecy, God asks Eve what she has done. In verse 14, God curses the serpent, and just one verse later in Genesis 3:15, God provides a way for redemption and hope. God has never left us without hope, even when reading from one verse to the next in the Bible. Through all the suffering that sin has caused in our world, God has always and will continue to, offer a way of hope for those who seek it.

May God touch your heart this Christmas
and show you what His Hope feels like.

* Merry Christmas *