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.
“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
John the Baptist had a remarkable life. He came to make way for the Messiah and to prepare people’s hearts for salvation, though he did not know ahead of time who the Messiah was to be. He lived a simple and humble life in the wilderness, but was feared by King Herod because of his influence, and was later beheaded by him. The first century Jewish historian, Josephus, who wrote Antiquities of the Jews (a history of the Jewish people) acknowledged the life and activity of John the Baptist.
Luke continues his story, with the birth of John, later to be known as John the Baptist.
Luke 1:67-80 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited and provided redemption for His people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, just as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets in ancient times; salvation from our enemies and from the clutches of those who hate us. He has dealt mercifully with our fathers and remembered His holy covenant— the oath that He swore to our father Abraham.
And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give His people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.
Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the Dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
The child grew up and became spiritually strong, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
May you get to know who Jesus is – the way of peace, the light that shines in the darkness, and the one who gives us salvation and forgiveness of our sins.
The Palestine Authority comprises two separate parts in the middle of Israel – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They claim Jerusalem as their capital and control most of the major towns, but Israel controls the access points. They lost most of their land in 1948 and the conquest of the remainder by Israel in 1967. This event dominates the lives of most of the Palestinians living there. There are over 10 million Palestinian Arabs globally. Between 2 and 3 million live in Jordan, over 1 million in Israel, and the rest spread elsewhere in the Middle East and the West. Between Israeli occupation and Islamist persecution, there is not much of a Christian minority here. 88% are Muslim, 9% Jewish, and less than 2% Christian. The Greek Orthodox and Catholic Church are the largest Christian churches. Palestinian Christians find themselves attacked by both sides – Jews and Muslims. Arab evangelicals, numbering in the thousands, feel rejected and isolated by Jews, Arabs and traditional Christians.
The origin of Palestine comes from the Philistines in the Old Testament Bible, who occupied part of the land of Canaan before it became the Promised Land that God gave to the Israelites as part of His covenant with Abraham and His people. The land was flowing with milk and honey. Moses described it as “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein thou shalt not eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass”. Even today, this same land has a good variety of climate, plants and animal life. So you can see it is a complex identity that dates back to the time of Moses. But, if you dig further in the history of the Old Testament Bible, the Philistines were a brutal people who worshiped pagan gods and sacrificed their own children, and treated the Israelites horribly. This is the reason they were driven out of Canaan by God and the reason God set apart a people who would be an example of how God wanted us to live and to carry His Word forward to future generations. Yet even the foreigner in the Promised Land was treated as one of God’s own as long as they chose to worship the true God. No matter who we are, we must humble ourselves, realize our need for God, repent, and then His ways will be our ways. It was true then and still true today.
Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, but it is not recognized internationally. The land is regarded by Jews, Christians and Muslims as their Holy Land. Israel became a nation again in 1948 after almost 2000 years. The northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria in 722 BC and the southern kingdom (Judah, capitol Jerusalem) by Babylon in 586 BC. After 70 years of Babylonian exile, they returned to their land in Jerusalem and rebuilt King Solomon’s temple. After Christ and the subsequent fall of Rome in 70 AD, the Jewish temple was destroyed, the nation dispersed and Jews scattered around the world, all fulfilling the prophecy from the book of Daniel. The bringing together of a nation again after almost 2000 years fulfills another major prophecy before the second coming of Christ. The temple must also be rebuilt a third time before the remaining prophecy can be fulfilled. The original temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was built by Solomon, King David’s son. The second rebuilding of the temple in the same place was instructed by God after the Israelites returned from exile, and the third rebuilding has yet to be done. There are currently preparations in Israel for all the materials needed for the temple so that the Jews can be ready when the time comes.
Israel today is modern, sophisticated, and well developed in high-tech, bio-tech, chemical and agricultural sectors, and the only democracy in the Middle East. This is evidence from their history, as a people who were chosen to be separate from other pagan religions, and as a people chosen to carry the story of God to the world. God patiently waits for them to return, and in the end times, they will once again lead the way, this time with Christ. God promises to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel. Like any parent with wayward children, we would want them to be cared for until they return. The population of Messianic Jews has increased over recent years, and I have had the opportunity to listen to many of their stories. Messianic Jews are rich in family history, and they take claim to their Jewish Jesus with pride! Pray for the salvation of Israel.
If we believe the Christmas story, and if we believe the prophecy that told of Jesus’ coming the first time just like the Wise Men did, why wouldn’t we believe the prophecy of Jesus coming a second time?
I’ve discovered a little known part to a Christmas story that often gets overlooked in the amplified fairy-tale type stories we usually like to hear. At this time of the year, squeezed in between the endless Christmas tunes and the joyous family images we are constantly presented with, there’s a lot of heartache and loneliness for many people. Even the psychologists have recently stated that too much Christmas music can be bad for your mental health, which reaffirms what many of us already know and feel this time of year.
This a story for all of us – a reminder for some and a hope for others. It is about Leah, the unloved one. I have never thought of this particular story in this way before. If you are familiar with Bible stories, then you have probably heard of the love story between Jacob and Rachel in Genesis 28-29. Jacob, who is also known as the father of the nation of Israel, is the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. Jacob fell in love with his boss’ daughter Rachel at first sight. She was “shapely and beautiful”, while her older sister Leah had “ordinary eyes”. It was not the custom back then for the younger daughter to be married first, so Jacob agreed to work for their father for seven years so he could marry Rachel. After he finished the seven years, he was tricked into marrying Leah instead. Jacob had to agree to another seven years of labor so that he may also marry Rachel, which he did. In telling this story, we often focus on Jacob’s love for Rachel and his sacrifice, but what about Leah? How did she feel? She was forced into marrying a man who did not love her or want her.
As the story continues, when the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb and she produced four sons, but Rachel was unable to conceive. Each time Leah said, “surely my husband will love me now.” But the beautiful Rachel may have started to become bitter, because when she saw that she was not bearing any children to Jacob, she began to envy her sister Leah. She demanded that Jacob give her children, of which Jacob became angry with her and replied, “Am I in God’s place, who has withheld children from you?” So Rachel instructed her slave to sleep with Jacob instead, and they had a son named Dan (who is later associated with pagan practices).
Fast forward a little through the turbulent life of Jacob and his twin brother Esau, and his demanding father-in-law, until we get to the end of Jacob’s life. He eventually has a son with Rachel named Joseph, who has an incredible story all of his own in Egypt, but this little known story is still about Leah. On Jacob’s deathbed, he gathers all his sons together to tell them what will happen to each of them in the days to come. As a side-note, Jacob’s twelve sons will become the twelve tribes of Israel, who later fight and split apart into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. Jacob begins to tell each of his sons their fate – some good and some bad. But it is Leah’s son Judah who receives the best blessing and prophecy:
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. He ties his donkey to a vine, and the colt of his donkey to the choice vine. He washes his clothes in wine and his robes in the blood of grapes. (Genesis 49)
It is through the lineage of Leah, the one who felt unloved, from her son Judah that the line of David will come and the birth of a Savior, Jesus Christ. And in the end, it was Leah that Jacob honored in her death by being buried with her in Abraham’s burial site.
Then Jacob commanded them: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite. This is the field Abraham purchased as a burial site. Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried there, Isaac and his wife Rebekah are buried there, and I buried Leah there. (Genesis 49:29-31)
If we only look at life from the short view, it can often seem very unfair and full of disappointments and sorrow. But we must look at life with the long view in mind just as God does. We are all beautiful in God’s eyes – with true beauty. God has something special in mind for all of us whether we see it in this life or when we get to heaven. I believe that Leah was loved after all. And from her offspring, came Jesus Christ.