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

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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 18 – Joseph is engaged to Mary

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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 19 – An angel visits Joseph

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When Joseph heard the news that Mary was with child, he considered divorcing her from their engagement. But that was not God’s plan. This becomes the third time an angel appears announcing the baby Jesus. The first time was to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, the forerunner to Christ. Then the angel appears to Mary, and now Joseph. And the angels are not finished yet with this Heavenly celebration!

Matthew 1:20-22,24
But after Joseph had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.

May you find the God of joy and celebration this Christmas season.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 21 – Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem

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Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. – Luke 2:4-5

Mary and Joseph are both descendants of King David. Joseph is from the line of David’s son, King Solomon, and a legal heir to the throne. Mary is from the line of Nathan, David’s other son, and therefore her biological children are blood-line heirs to the throne of David.

Both Mary and Joseph are from Nazareth in Galilee but they travel to Bethlehem in Judea to be registered, as decreed by Caesar Augustus. This is why Jesus is often referred to as the Nazarene from Galilee though he was born in the small town of Bethlehem.

All of this fulfills the prophecies as written 700 years earlier.

May you believe this Christmas, in the God who came down to earth to dwell among his creation, and to teach us how to love, to forgive, and to show us the way to eternal salvation.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 22 – Names of Jesus

nativity-trail

The trip for Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem was about 70-90 miles through mountainous terrain on foot. It would have taken them about 8-10 days to complete, while carrying all of their food, water, blankets and supplies. They were poor and had no place to stay once they were there. I’m sure they were wondering would happen once they got there. But were they also thinking of the earlier prophecies from Micah 5:2 that said a Savior would be born in Bethlehem, or from Isaiah 7:14 that said he would be born of a virgin?

As we wait for the birth of Jesus in the coming days, here are a few of the names and attributes that will be given to Jesus later in his ministry.

Good Shepherd – John 10:11
Light that shines in the darkness – John 1:5
Immanuel, God is with us – Matthew 1:23
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world – John 1:29
The Word – John 1:1
Prince of Peace – John 14:27

May you experience the Peace, Light, and Good Shepherd of the One who can take away all your sin and give you a new life in Christ.

* Merry Christmas *