The Vineyard of the Lord Of Hosts…Vineyard Parables pt 2

What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:  And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.  For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.(Isaiah 5:7-9)

The LORD  created and planted a people, Israel , in the Holy Land. He gave them the Torah,  the Prophets and His own Wisdom. Furthermore the Most High descended in a cloud and dwelt in a Holy House in the midst of the people of Israel. There he ordained a system of sacrifice, and the services of mercy through priests,(the forgiveness of sins), and the teaching of His holy Word, which was an attraction to people all over the world. The Law was to go out of Zion and bring the pagan world to the knowledge of the only true God.

For all of the privileges and advantages, there was only one expectation; that Israel would bear fruit unto God. The LORD expected them to bring forth the fruit of repentance, Love, Faith and loyalty to Him.

Everything was calculated to bring Israel to a deep repentance, a hatred of sin, a love for God and for our brother, a compassion for the needy and helpless above all else.

The tabernacle itself was a constant teaching, bearing witness to the great themes of sin, judgment, cleansing, separation unto God, the need for the shedding of innocent blood for the remission of sins. The sacred furniture, the holy Priests and especially the High Priest, were all types of the Messiah to come and illustrated the work He would do.

The various sacrifices were also teachings of the person of the coming “seed of the woman” and how he would reverse the ancient curse upon all of us by his death. The OX which portrays the strong one bearing the burden of the weak and helpless, the lamb who lays his head back meekly submitting to be slaughtered, the pair of turtle doves; heavenly (flying) creatures but one slain under running water, and the other set free for the cleansing of the leper, all of this taught the Holy nation, for centuries of the coming Messiah.

Every Passover was a mini enactment,  a portrayal of the coming deliverance from sin, through the inspected lamb, the shedding of his blood and its application on the household door posts, the complete sacrifice of the lamb, leaving nothing  left over, and even the specific admonition to not break so much as a bone of the Lamb. “He keeps all of his bones, not one of them shall be broken”(Psalm 34).

I could spend the rest of my life portraying the centuries of Temple services, blessings, scriptures, the rivers of sacrificial blood which flowed out of the temple, and the countless dramatic services through which God sought to incline the people of Israel to recognize and to believe in the coming Messiah.

How could these people do anything other, than to turn to God, away from their sin and to await and receive the Messiah when He came?  After all of that preparation, which was designed to incline them towards such fruitfulness, how could they yield instead , the fruit of unbelief, ingratitude, hatred and oppression?

We must translate this message to we who consider ourselves the heirs of the Judeo Christian civilization.

Everything we have been given, down through the centuries, has also been calculated to bring us to the point of faith in God, belief in Jesus, repentance and true love for our God and fellow man!

Consider the English speaking world. God gave us brave men who stood up to the Papacy and shed their blood that the Bible be available in the English language?  In the very center of Oxford University is a monument to three martyrs, Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley, who allowed themselves to be burned alive at the stake in public rather than compromise with the Roman premise that the wafer is actually Christ incarnate! They died in loyalty to truth!

Why was I born and raised in the mid west of the United States, a place of Protestantism, and evangelically shaped values?  How is it that I born into a nation founded by British Puritans who sought a place to worship God? Why have I been blessed to live in relative peace in an orderly (Judeo Christian)part of the world?

These are the preparations of the LORD of the Vineyard in my life, He put these things in my life to incline me to turn to Him(Fruit) , to accept Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of my sins,He sent people into my life at critical times who were Christians and witnesses of Him, He even used my parents who tho Catholic, taught me that there was a God, a heaven and a Hell and a Judgment and that there was the Son of God, Jesus Christ who died for my sins.

In the Mass I recited every Sunday of my life, we said “I believe in Jesus Christ His only son who was born of the virgin Mary, conceived under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried…and on the third day he arose from the dead…”, This is how God prepared the soil of my life, He primed me to come to a point… everything was his preparation for fruit.

The ultimate disaster would be if after all of that, I still would have remained fruitless! This is the lesson and warning of Isaiah’s version of the parable of the Vineyard. Jesus will develop these themes…

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My Beloved Planted a Vineyard…Vineyard parables 1 ( repost 2016)

Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.(Isaiah 5:1-6)

The Gardener in Isaiah’s parable, is God the Father, the original gardener. In Creation he prepared a garden for mankind, which was perfectly suited to accommodate man, setting the first man up, with his wife for total happiness, success, and peace . This full wholeness and satisfaction that they were meant to enjoy embodies the truest and deepest meaning of the Hebrew word,  Shalom.

The gardener wanted fruit, i.e. faithful loyalty and trust,  and reciprocal love from the couple which he planted in the garden.

Centuries later the Creator made a new nation, Israel, out of an ancient,  barren couple of idolaters from the land we now call Iraq. God called Abram and Sarai to believe in him and promised the couple that of their loins would come a mighty nation and one who would bless all of the families of the earth.

Against all natural law, Abraham,Isaac and Jacob had children , solely due to the power and promise of God. God blessed Israel even when they languished in captivity in Egypt for centuries. They steadily increased in spite of Satanic attempts to destroy them. Eventually they came out of Egypt, in the Exodus, into the Land God had promised to give unto Abraham and his seed forever.

Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land.  The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars.  She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river.(Psalm 80:8-11)

Israel was his choice vine, and the Holy land was his vineyard.

The Gardener put a fence around Israel, saving her from extinction, miraculously delivering her from nations stronger and mightier than she. Time and again Israel experienced deliverance from sure ruin, for God had been a shield and a fortress to her.

He set up a Tower over her, appointing Prophets, Priests and mighty Kings and Judges to safeguard her. Like no other nation Israel knew what was coming, having a constant Divine perspective granted to her through her prophets.

He pulled out the rocks in the soil, anything that would inhibit growth; Idols, the occult, false prophets, and all of the other accursed burdens which kept the surrounding nations in such deep darkness.

The Gardener set a winepress in the midst of his Vineyard; for as no other nation had never experienced, the Divine Vineyard-man cleared a piece of real estate in the center of Jerusalem, sanctified it and gave holy blue prints for a holy house, which He descended from heaven to inhabit, dwelling in the midst of Israel.

That winepress;the temple and its apparatus became a source of the forgiveness of sins, through the priestly ministry of mercy to al who drew near according the Divine ordinances.

In that Holy Temple, the Most High instructed a people, teaching them by his Word, and making them wiser than all of the nations round about. Furthermore the Torah of God was taught in all of the hamlets and cities of Israel so that all of the people of Israel had access to the Word of the LORD.

Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.(Deuteronomy 33:29)

For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?(Deuteronomy 4:7)

The Parable of the Vineyard makes this simple point- all of those preparations and benefits were designed towards a certain end; that Israel should bear fruit unto God. What is the fruit he looked for?

The fruit of Repentance, Love,Faithful loyalty, and Righteousness.

But the Gardener came looking for good grapes, he received only wolfsbane, sour, bitter, uneatable wild grapes.

in verse 7 the Prophet resorts to wordplay, puns to show the disappointment of the Gardener,

God expected of the people He so favored, ‘Justice’, (misphat) but instead he only reaped (mispach) , ‘bloodshed’, the shedding of innocent blood. He also anticipated  “righteousness” (tsedeqah) but has instead heard only an oppressed  “cry” (tse‘aqah).

He calls upon his hearers to judge for themselves;’what would you do if after all of that care and preparation, you only received such ‘fruit’?

Furthermore, we hear from the LORD in this song a plaintive ‘What more could I have done?’.

The moral of this parable; why did God take such pains to expose you and I to the truth of Christianity? For example, I have often thought , ‘why did God allow me to be born in the United States of America a land steeped in Evangelical Christianity? My parents weren’t evangelicals but they thought me of God, and showed me that there would be a judgment and that there was a Loving Savior, Jesus. Why did God put me in such a position?

He did it to bring me to a point in life, where I would bear the fruit of repentance, faith, and even true love for God(who loved me first).

What is going to happen to those who after all that Divine preparation, still bear no fruit?

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The Bible Doesn't talk Much About Love…(but it is brimming with it)

The Bible is the Word of God. It is an amazing revelation, showing us Who God is, and what he has done to save mankind from the sin that we are all prone to. Central to that revelation is the truth that God hates sin and evil, and everything that is false, but God loves man. He has made a Righteous way to save man from the consequences of Man’s own rebellion.

In a recent sermon I made this observation, which some have found hard to understand; I said that the Bible doesn’t really say that much about Love. God is love, and the implications of nearly everything we are shown in the Bible are brimming with Love, but there is not as much talk about Love itself as one would think.

The creation is obviously an act of Divine Love, Everything was created for the maximum needs of man in mind; the garden of delight, the perfect environment, the meeting of the need for companionship, the gift of meaningful work, the exalted place given to the man and his wife. Obviously a lot of loving thought was put into creation by the Creator.

There is Love in the account of the fall as well, for there is the concern that the first couple confess their sin to the Creator, (obviously He wanted to save them) , then there is the clothing of the shame of the first couple, in the bloody garments which foretell the death of the Savior for our sins, and the prophecy of the “Seed of the woman” to come, who would crush the serpent’s head and undo the effects of the primal curse and estrangement from God.

Love permeates the accounts, but little is said about Love itself, there is little or no “Love talk”. This is what I meant about there not being much about Love in the Bible itself. God is love…He doesn’t speak much about Love itself, but those who know God, know Love, and Know that He is LOVE and that Love permeates all that He does and is.

I took people to the New Testament, and especially to the sermons of Jesus, the Apostles and the preaching in the book of Acts… They didn’t preach Love in their Kerygma, ,neither the LOVE of God for all, nor did they teach “Unconditional Love” . There was much warning of Judgment, and they preached the Lordship of Jesus, the cross and it’s meaning, and of course th Kingdom of God, but not much was said about Love.

But it is obvious that Jesus loved/loves us. The Father loves us, and we who are saved know it. Of course there is some said about Love in the scripture, such as I Corinthians 13, or the teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, about the Love of the Father for the just and the unjust, I do not assert that there is no talk of Love. I have simply made the observation that there is not as much said about love as people think.

There is much made of Righteousness, and Holiness, and some said about Love.

I suppose that in the last century or so, Evangelical churches and preachers, shifted in their emphasis in preaching, from an emphasis on the subject of Righteousness, the law of God, and judgment, to an emphasis on Love. I also suspect much of this is due to the philosophy of humanism which has swept across the planet, particularly the West.

This is not to say there is no place for discussion and emphasis on Love, the Love of God for man, for sinners, and in redemption. There is no doubt, that We are to preach that God loves fallen man, and was “In Christ reconciling sinners to himself”.

But Love cannot be the only emphasis, nor does it seem to be the prime emphasis in the gospels, and in Acts. The Apostles preached “Righteousness, Temperance and the Judgment to come, as well as love.

And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

The Bible is the most loving book on earth, ever , in history, but it doesn’t speak as much about Love itself as many think it does. The Love of Scripture is implicit, powerful and pervasive, because we have a God who loves in deed, and on levels difficult for sinful men to understand or receive, until after they are enlightened. God is Love, He acts in Love , thinks in Love, speaks in Love.

Could it be that merely preaching “Love” to the world, without the context of Holiness, the broken Law, Judgment and wrath, actually deceives sinners and makes it more difficult for them to believe the gospel?

There are many, many people who are similar in attitude to a French Atheist (Heinrich Heine) who had spent his whole life in militant rebellion against God, denying the existence of God, and saying “No” to any claims of God on his life, moral or otherwise.

On his death bed, a friend asked him, “What if you are wrong about God? “

His reply,Dieu me pardonnera, c’est son travail , translated from French, “Of course God will forgive me, that’s His job!”

We sinners tend to presume on Love. Instead of we need to be told that we are sinners, and in danger of damnation, we need to understand that God is a righteous God, and that Jesus is LORD, and that there is a judgment coming which we are not qualified to pass through. The great themes of scripture , such as Sin, Salvation, Heaven and Hell, the World and the coming Kingdom need to be proclaimed afresh, so that we can put the “love of God” in it’s proper context.

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The Bible Doesn't Discuss Love Much, (But it is brimming with it) …

The Bible is the Word of God. It is an amazing revelation, showing us Who God is, and what he has done to save mankind from the sin that we are all prone to. Central to that revelation is the truth that God hates sin and evil, and everything that is false, but God loves man. He has made a Righteous way to save man from the consequences of Man’s own rebellion.

In a recent sermon I made this observation, which some have found hard to understand; I said that the Bible doesn’t really say that much about Love. God is love, and the implications of nearly everything we are shown in the Bible are brimming with Love, but there is not as much talk about Love itself as one would think.

The creation is obviously an act of Divine Love, Everything was created for the maximum needs of man in mind; the garden of delight, the perfect environment, the meeting of the need for companionship, the gift of meaningful work, the exalted place given to the man and his wife. Obviously a lot of loving thought was put into creation by the Creator.

There is Love in the account of the fall as well, for there is the concern that the first couple confess their sin to the Creator, (obviously He wanted to save them) , then there is the clothing of the shame of the first couple, in the bloody garments which foretell the death of the Savior for our sins, and the prophecy of the “Seed of the woman” to come, who would crush the serpent’s head and undo the effects of the primal curse and estrangement from God.

Love permeates the accounts, but little is said about Love itself, there is little or no “Love talk”. This is what I meant about there not being much about Love in the Bible itself. God is love…He doesn’t speak much about Love itself, but those who know God, know Love, and Know that He is LOVE and that Love permeates all that He does and is.

I took people to the New Testament, and especially to the sermons of Jesus, the Apostles and the preaching in the book of Acts… They didn’t preach Love in their Kerygma, ,neither the LOVE of God for all, nor did they teach “Unconditional Love” . There was much warning of Judgment, and they preached the Lordship of Jesus, the cross and it’s meaning, and of course th Kingdom of God, but not much was said about Love.

But it is obvious that Jesus loved/loves us. The Father loves us, and we who are saved know it. Of course there is some said about Love in the scripture, such as I Corinthians 13, or the teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, about the Love of the Father for the just and the unjust, I do not assert that there is no talk of Love. I have simply made the observation that there is not as much said about love as people think.

There is much made of Righteousness, and Holiness, and some said about Love.

I suppose that in the last century or so, Evangelical churches and preachers, shifted in their emphasis in preaching, from an emphasis on the subject of Righteousness, the law of God, and judgment, to an emphasis on Love. I also suspect much of this is due to the philosophy of humanism which has swept across the planet, particularly the West.

This is not to say there is no place for discussion and emphasis on Love, the Love of God for man, for sinners, and in redemption. There is no doubt, that We are to preach that God loves fallen man, and was “In Christ reconciling sinners to himself”.

But Love cannot be the only emphasis, nor does it seem to be the prime emphasis in the gospels, and in Acts. The Apostles preached “Righteousness, Temperance and the Judgment to come, as well as love.

And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

The Bible is the most loving book on earth, ever , in history, but it doesn’t speak as much about Love itself as many think it does. The Love of Scripture is implicit, powerful and pervasive, because we have a God who loves in deed, and on levels difficult for sinful men to understand or receive, until after they are enlightened. God is Love, He acts in Love , thinks in Love, speaks in Love.

Could it be that merely preaching “Love” to the world, without the context of Holiness, the broken Law, Judgment and wrath, actually deceives sinners and makes it more difficult for them to believe the gospel?

There are many, many people who are similar in attitude to a French Atheist (Heinrich Heine) who had spent his whole life in militant rebellion against God, denying the existence of God, and saying “No” to any claims of God on his life, moral or otherwise.

On his death bed, a friend asked him, “What if you are wrong about God? “

His reply, Dieu me pardonnera, c’est son travail , translated from French, “Of course God will forgive me, that’s His job!”

We sinners tend to presume on Love. Instead of hearing how precious we are in God’s sight, we need to be told that we are sinners, and in danger of damnation, we need to understand that God is a righteous God, and that Jesus is LORD, and that there is a judgment coming which we are not qualified to pass through. The great themes of scripture , such as Sin, Salvation, Heaven and Hell, the World and the coming Kingdom need to be proclaimed afresh, so that we can put the “love of God” in it’s proper context.

Perhaps this is why Scripture isn’t full of “love talk”, although implictly Scripture is a revelation of a radical, eternal, overwhelming and overflowing act of Love by a God who is LOVE and in Love sent his Son to die for our salvation.

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Yes, God still loves us… ( John 3)

It is not unusual for true ministers of God to have their teachings deliberately misconstrued by enemies, to discredit them. This happened to our LORD Jesus, when he was accused of being a threat to the Temple and of blasphemy against the sacred place. It also happened to the Apostle Paul, when his detractors accused him of teaching that believers can sin with impunity, since Grace is free and available.

And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just. ( Romans 3:8 NASB)

They slandered Paul and Jesus this way, so why be surprised that Satan still uses this tactic?

I have been giving a teaching for a few years about John 3:14-16. I freely acknowledge that the teaching came to me through a fine Bible Expositor in the UK named David Pawson. *

In this particular teaching, the Greek tenses are used to show the nature of the act of God in sending his Son, and the nature of true Faith in Jesus and the reception of eternal life.

The tenses tell us that , …once God loved the World. They also teach us that, “whosoever goes on believing in Him, shall go on having eternal life”.

I think this is a profound and important point, because there are so many who have come under a mistaken notion of both the Love of God, and of the meaning of salvation.

So many have been taught that God’s love for the World, is ongoing and is “unconditional” and that Believing in Christ is a one time experience with eternal results. In fact the opposite is true.

God doesn’t have an ongoing and up and down relationship with this World. This World is under a sentence of Divine Judgment, and the attitude of God towards it is uncompromising. The sentence is passed, the execution of the sentence will come at any time. The World hates God, is hostile to Christ, and it’s real “god” is the Devil.

But Jesus told us in John 3 that God Loved the World ( notice even in English the tense is past, God so loved the World, the Bible never asserts that God so Loves the World). Once God did something in Love for a World which hates and rejects Him, and the results are everlasting. He sent his only begotten Son to die as a substitute for us.

I have never asserted that “God doesn’t Love us” or that “God’s love is not eternal”, or “God only Loved us Once”, or any other variation of a denial of the love of God for mankind, for Believers or for Jews or even for individual unbelievers! As The Apostle Paul said, ‘Perish the very thought of it’! Of course God loves us!

Remember that John 3:16 is talking about the World. The World is a particular Spiritual entity. God once loved the World, ( ie, Humanity as it has organized itself to the exclusion of God).

There is only one locus for the LOVE of God for this World, it is in the Cross of Jesus Christ, and no where else.

Furthermore, it should be obvious that the Love of John 3:16 is a verb, an action. God did something purposefully, for the World, once. He sent his Son to live among us and to die for us on a cross. How many times is He going to do that? Only ONCE.

The millions through time who have heard the voice of God and have been drawn out of this world, to become the church, are not the World anymore. God loves them all the time, and always will love them.

God loves the Jews, whom God loves because of the Father’s and whom God will save at the end of time, for His loving kindness is better than Life.

Of course the Love of God is ongoing, but all of it radiates out of Calvary, there is no way to know the Love of God, or experience it other than through Calvary.

This is really important because there is a sentimentalized version of the LOVE of God which is softening people and opening them up to a humanistic , false gospel, stripping people of the conviction they need to turn to God.

This is why Satan is inspiring certain people to distort and misrepresent my teaching.

* I do not say this as if I cite Pawson as an authority, to bolster my argument. In my view and practice, only the Word of God is authoritative in an absolute sense. The reason I cite him is for the purpose of clarity and openness. I learned something from Pawson, checked it out in scripture and am sure it is true to the text.

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Herod And The Red Dragon… Matthew Nativity 5

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.( Matthew 2:17-19)

A little more than a hundred years before the birth of Christ, John Hyracanus, the youngest of the Macabees, and King of Judea, defeated the nation of Edom and forcibly converted them to Judaism. Among the converts was the family of the Herods. The Family Patriarch, Antipater, raised his son Herod as a Jew. Antipater was a friend of Julius Caesar, and when a young Herod had to flee to Rome, He became friends with Octavian, who later became known as Caesar Augustus.

It was partly by the influence of his friendship with Caesar that Herod was named “King of Judea” by the Roman Senate. Herod was scrupulous about keeping kosher, but in a fit of rage and paranoia, He killed his own son, leading to Caesar’s famous quip, “It is safer to be Herod’s pig, than his Son”.

When Herod heard the news from the East, that the “King of the Jews” was born in Bethlehem, He did what any oriental despot would have done at the time, He set out to Kill the legitimate rival to the throne, as soon as possible. Thus the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, in Bethlehem, every child from two years old on down.

Herod no doubt had no idea of the many and profound ways He was fulfilling prophecies, that date all the way back to the Garden of Eden by his actions. Matthew tells us on the one level, that He fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah, about Rachel weeping for her children.

It was in Ramah, that Jewish captives were assembled at the time of the Babylonian captivity, to be marched the 400 plus miles back over the Jordan and even over the Euphrates into captivity as a judgment for the persistent and unrepentant sins of Judah.

Even further back, Jacob’s wife Rachel died in childbirth, in Ramah, on the way to Bethlehem. She was giving birth to a Son whom she named “BenAmi”- “Son of My Sorrow”, but which led to Jacob changing his name to “BenJamin”- “Son of my Right hand”. Within that story is a prophecy , that the sufferings of Christ (The true “Son of Sorrow”) would be turned to the highest exaltation and honor in Heaven, “God has exalted Him and seated Him at his own Right Hand”.

But Herod was inadvertently fulfilling other, older prophecies as well. From the very beginning, we are told that there would be a war between the “Seed of the woman” and the “seed of the Serpent”, that would characterize all of human history.

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.( Genesis 3:15)

The Devil has always sought to destroy the “Seed of the Woman”, or the people who would bear the seed of the woman, ie Abraham,Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David and his Sons. One of the themes of the Old testament, is the “war on the seed”, such as when Pharaoh took Abraham’s wife, or when Athaliah slew all of the sons of David except the one who was hidden…. .

Obviously Herod is playing the Red Dragon, who appears in an apocalyptic vision in Revelation 12,

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.  And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.( Revelation 12:1-5)

Revelation 12 is the compliment to Genesis 3. In Genesis 3 we have a woman, a man, and a Serpent in a garden. By Revelation 12, we see that the woman is clothed, and pregnant, in labor. The Serpent is now a dragon, and has much power and many victories over mankind. The Dragon waits to pounce on the promised “seed of the woman” as soon as it is born.

The woman in labor is Israel (The Sun,Moon and stars are interpreted in the story of Joseph’s dream, as Israel). She labors in travail because she was chosen to bring into this earth, the scripture, the worship and temple, and most importantly, the Messiah. As we learn in Genesis 3, nothing of any value can come into this world now, without travail and sorrow. This is the meaning of Israel’s suffering and persecution.

Now why dost thou cry out aloud? is there no king in thee? is thy counsellor perished? for pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail. Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies.  Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor. ( Micah 4:9-12)

The Serpent has become a dragon. No longer does he have to sneak around on his belly as an outsider, he has acquired all political and worldly power, and is the “god of this age”. We need not wonder what the red dragon symbolizes, for Revelation 12 tells us plainly, that he is “The Serpent of Old, the Devil...”,

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.(Revelation 12:9)

The Dragon failed to destroy the seed of the woman, Rachel’s tears will be dried up and she will be comforted and the who world will finally be freed from the primal curse!

No wonder we reverently and worshipfully sing with trembling voice,

Silent night, holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

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The Meaning of the Magi…Matthew Nativity pt 4

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.  When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel… When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. ( Matthew 2:1-11)

Wise men from the East came seeking Jesus, calling him “King of the Jews”. Who were they and how did they know to come and seek him?

The Eastern frontier of the Roman Empire was the Euphrates river. The Parthians (Medo/Persians) were a particular threat to the Romans, never having succumbed to the Roman expansion and handily resisting them upon every incursion from the west.

The Magi came from Persia, their ‘school of the Magi’ was believed to have dated all the way back to the days of Daniel the prophet, from his time in the schools of Babylon, and then Persia.

The Magi were careful observers of astronomy, as well as being completely conversant with the Hebrew prophets (especially Daniel). Why are they considered Kings? Because they were of an ancient Persian Priestly caste, of teachers, philosophers, and educators of Kings. No King could be crowned in Persia without having mastered the teachings of the Magi, and without the approval of the same.

When the Magi came west, to seek Jesus, (There were far more than three of them), Herod and all of Jerusalem were troubled. Quite a large contingent of them crossed the frontier into the Eastern most district of the Roman Empire, the defense of which, Herod would have been responsible. The Magi would have come with a military escort, and a caravan of supplies. Some ancient historians speculate that they would have been accompanied by up to a thousand mounted cavalrymen.

What did they seek? the King of the Jews. They had seen a star, as a portent of the birth of a powerful King. They were also familiar with the prophecies of Balaam, the pagan Seer, whom God put prophecy into his mouth, back in the days of the Exodus,

I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. (Numbers 24:17)

Was this the Star out of Jacob, which would crush heathendom in its unity against the only true God? The Medo/Persian Magi were so sure of it, they openly told Herod, that they had come to worship Him, (Christ).

Herod immediately called a counsel of his advisors; Chief Priests, scribes, experts in the Torah, in order to demand of them the birth place of the Messiah. Already the baby jesus was causing the Kings of the earth and their rulers to seek counsel against the LORD and his Messiah.

Without hesitation, a Priest, or scribe rattled off the prophecy of Micah, that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea, the place of King David and his family.

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting… And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.( Micah 5:2,4)

Other than mindlessly rattling off the scripture which they were familiar with on the one hand, and blind and deadened to on the other, there seemed to be very little interest in walking the short journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to see of there was anything to what the Medo Persian contingent had traveled 500 miles to inquire of.

Herod was quite interested for other reasons as we will see.

The Magi would follow the star until they found the child within two years after the interview by Herod. By that time Jesus no longer an infant ,but was a Paidon, ( a young child just walking). The Star led them to the very house where Jesus was living, and with his mother.

Their gifts of Gold,Frankincense and Myrrh, all point to his Kingly dignity, His Deity, (Gold) and the fact that he is a Priest (Frankincense) . Myrrh points to his substitutionary death for our salvation.

These gifts are also a foretaste of a Prophecy for the restoration of Israel and the Jewish people by Isaiah, in which the Gentiles will come streaming in to present the wealth of the nations to God’s chosen people,

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory.( Isaiah 60:1-7)

In the days to come, Israel’s sorrow will be turned to joy and her fortunes will be restored, in the days of the Messiah, and instead of being “forsaken and hated” the Gentiles will pour in, bringing their gifts.

They entered into the house, fell down and worshiped him.

Priests of God, scribes and Jewish elders didn’t bother to seek him, although they knew the scripture, but these Medo/Persian King trainers, knew a King when they saw him (by the Holy Spirit) so they bowed down to worship and adore him.

Another factor which made the Magi sensitive enough to know the time had come for the King of the Jews to be born, was their familiarity with the Prophet Daniel.

Five hundred and forty some years previously, the prophet Daniel was praying about the future of his people, from captivity in Babylon, and in Persia. An amazing time sensitive prophecy was revealed to Him, personally delivered to him by the Angel Gabriel.

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:25-27)

The future of Daniel’s people, (Israel) would be decided in a manner of 70 weeks of years,(490 years). Within that time the entire program of God for them will be concluded; finish transgression,end of sins,reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting rightiousness, seal up the vision, and all prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

Picture a stopwatch. It starts “from the going of the command the restore and build Jerusalem”… This decree of Artaxerxes, occurred in 444BC and is recounted in Nehemiah 2.

We are told, that in 69 weeks, (483 years(, Messiah the Prince would come and die, but not for himself but for the people”. This would bring us to the year 33 AD. (At this point the Divine stopwatch stopped. ;eaving 7 more years for God to complete his program for Israel).

These Magi had studied Daniel’s prophecies copiously for centuries. Thus they would have known that the time was near for the Messiah to present himself, and they knew to be aware and to understand the star and it’s meaning.

The meaning of the Magi is clear, that those who seek the Messiah, and his salvation and who fear God and tremble at his word, will find the Christ, and be able to bow down and Worship Him. Those who have no heart for God, even if they are familiar with scripture, will not seek Him, and will not find Him.

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