Immanuel, God With Us…Matthew's Nativity pt 3

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:22-25)

All of this was done… all of what? All of the events of the engagement of two direct descendants of King David, the pregnancy through the Holy spirit, Joseph’s doubts and the resolution of those doubts by a dream… these events, we are told, were done to fulfill an ancient prophecy in the book of Isaiah 7:14.

The story in Isaiah, is of the double threat posed to Judah in the days of the wicked king Ahaz, by Rezin, King of Syria and by Pekah, King of Israel. These two nations, (usually inveterate enemies of each other) combined in an alliance to attack Judah in a time of extreme weakness. Judah had just come through a war which cost a hundred thousand of her warriors and the abduction of two hundred thousand women and children.

The nation of Judah had never sunk lower. King Ahaz had subjected himself as a vassal king to the King of Assyria, Shalmaneser, and on his way back from a meeting with his new master, he saw an altar in Damascus which he loved, and ordered drawings and plans made to make a replica of it for the temple in Jerusalem! A Pagan altar!

Ahaz remodeled the temple, tearing down the huge bronze sea which rested on the backs of twelve oxen, (representing Israel’s intercession for the Gentiles), an tore down also the private covered entrance from the King’s palace to the temple (representing the unique relationship between the Sons of David and God). Then Ahaz drug in the new pagan altar into the remodeled temple, and worshipped at it, in the face of the only true God!

This was the ‘Son of David”. Now Judah was in trouble from external enemies, Israel and Syria. But still She had Isaiah the Prophet living in Jerusalem.

And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it.

And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.Then said the Lord unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field; And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal: Thus saith the Lord God, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established. (Isaiah 7:3-9)

Isaiah was then told to challenge this wicked and unbelieving Son of David, to ask the LORD for a sign, any sign at all, and it would be granted. In spite of his evil and rebellion and wicked course which he followed, God wanted him still to believe in Him, and to Know that God was With Him and the nation regardless… .

But King Ahaz feigned piety, and refused to “tempt the Lord” by asking for a sign.

So the sign would be given to Him of the LORD”s choosing,

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.(Isaiah 7:14-16)

The Prophet Isaiah’s wife would have a child, (‘Virgin’ in the Hebrew text is “Almah” which means young woman). The child’s name would be called “Immanuel” and by the time the child is weaned , both opposing Kings would be defeated and driven out of the Land. In this way, even wicked Judah would know that ‘God was with them’. The child would be a sign of the presence of God even in the darkest times.

How is tat story connected to the nativity?

By the time of Matthew 1, (the fulness of times), Judah was in another low place. The “son of David’ wasn’t even a King, Judah was prostrate under Gentile power,(Rome) and the Son of David was an obscure carpenter in a backwater town, Nazareth. All looked lost, the scepter had departed from Judah and Messiah had not yet come…the promise seemed unfulfilled that a Son of David would remain on the throne and reign forever.

The great tree of the line of David had been a stump for more than five hundred years, and what was left of Israel had languished under Gentile powers all that time.

But the same prophet would predict a shoot out of that stump, who would arise and rule the world in Righteousness.

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.( Isaiah 11:1-4)

Like Ahaz, Joseph the Son of David couldn’t believe what his wife had told him about the virgin birth. Matthew cites the Septuagint which is more precise in Isaiah 7 for it uses the Greek word for literal Virgin. “A Virgin shall bear a Son”, and He shall be the Sign of Immanuel, that God is with us. The seed of the woman had come to bring the presence of God to all of us who will receive.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Cross is the Location of God's Love ( and nowhere else) …

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

The Cross of Jesus happened at a precise point in time and history. Jesus gave his life as an offering to the Father for us, to satisfy the claims of Divine justice and the demands of the broken law.

We know this sacrifice was accepted by the Father, because when they came on the third day, to finish embalming him, the tomb was empty, and Angels told the witnesses “Why look for the living among the dead, He is not here, he is risen!” .

The sacrifice of the cross was planned, foreordained, by the Father, from the very foundation of the world. He knew we would fall, and in love He made provision. He knew we would have to be saved, from the destruction of our own sin, and from His Holy wrath.

Everything which God did in the earth among men, was in anticipation of the cross. The calling of Israel, the Temple and it’s services of sacrifice,the ministry of mercy and intercession, the election of a Priestly order, and everything else God did in the time leading up to the Incarnation of Jesus, None of it would mean anything without the cross.

To what purpose, would all of the teaching of the Prophets, the exploits of the Kings and Judges, the worship in the temple… in short everything in scripture… what good would all of that do without the cross? All anticipates the cross, and only the cross gives ultimate meaning to it.

For example, If Israel was created, and given knowledge and light, taught to worship and separated by law, clothing and diet, only to have an improved life in this life, but then to die and to have to suffer wrath for their sins forever, could we really say that God loved them? The cross is the essential expression of God’s love.

What good would the ministry of Jesus be, without the cross, as the culmination of it ? What good would it do to bring His higher moral teaching, and for him to go about “doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the Devil” , if there were no crowning act of the giving of himself on the tree in our place? A healed sinner is still a sinner, doomed and under the wrath of a Holy God. Everything Jesus did on earth pointed towards the cross and it’s fruits.

There is no Love of God, without the cross.

God is Love. Jesus is the ultimate and full revelation of the Love of God, and the ultimate act of Jesus, was his self giving on the cross, as our substitute.

God’s love is inseparable from the cross. There is and has never been any Divine love, other than that which either anticipated and pointed to the cross, or that steady flow out of the cross into history.

The Cross of Jesus is a like a beacon of Divine Love, radiating back , as far back as the garden of Eden and even before he foundation of the World. We see the shadow of the cross in the garden, when the Prophecy of the “seed of the woman” who would come to crush the serpent’s head, but whose heel would be bruised, and in the horror of the first couple being clothed in the skin of a recently slain animal.

In just the same way, the rays of Divine love flow out of the cross into the future and all the way until the end of time and into eternity. Millions of hardened, ruined and stained sinners have been spiritually slain, by the good news of the substitute Savior over the centuries. As soon as they hear it, they know inside that it is true, as Isaiah prophesied that we would,

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.(Isaiah 52:13-15)

We are brought into the very throne room of God, and given a glimpse of the eternal future, in Revelation 4-5, in which we see and participate in the worship of Heaven itself, around the throne of the Lamb. The “new Song” is necessary, for the “old Song” is no longer adequate in and of itself. The “Old Song ” worships God as Creator,

Thou Art Worthy Oh Lord, to recieve Glory,and Honor and Power. For Thou hast Created all things for thy pleasure…(Revelation 4;11)

Why is this perfectly true and right Hymn no longer adequate? Because we have fallen, and need to be redeemed in order to know and worship and love and be loved by God. Thus the new Song, is sung to the “Lamb who had the marks of slaughter”, and is of the blood shed for our Redemption.

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:9-10)

This is why Jesus said, in John 3:16… God so loved the World… ( he didn’t say God so Loves the World). The way Jesus put it, it implies an action. God did something to love the world.

At one point in time, space and history, God Loved the World…on the cross. it was real, concrete and absolute Love. If you had run your hand up the cross, you would have splinters. It happened on a calendar day, for as we say in the creed, “He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffered died and was buried…” , they embalmed him and laid him in a tomb.

Satan hates this teaching because people are deceived already about the Love of God. There is a humanistic, abstract concept of the Love of God, a general, “unconditional” love, that they are counting on, if they believe in God at all. “God is Love, and Love is God”, they carelessly say. They may just as well say, “Peace on earth…” or “Judge not…” or any of the dozen or so other religious sayings which half salve men’s consciences.

This is why my burden lately is to stress that the LOVE of God cannot be disconnected from the cross. There will be no personal experience of Divine love without it, and there will never be another pivotal event from heaven of the same nature. God loved the World once, “In this way did God once love the world, He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever goes on believing in Him, shall not be ruined, but shall go on having eternal life”. ( Paraphrase of John 3:16 as taught by David Pawson).

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Joseph's Doubts…Matthew nativity pt 2

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

Matthew tells us that Joseph, a direct descendant of King David, was engaged to Mary, another direct descendant of David, to be married. Espousal, in those days involved a simple ceremony, involving the couple and witnesses, and the recital of a blessing of this sort, from first century Judaism,

“Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the World, Who hath sanctified us by His Commandments, and enjoined us about incest, and forbidden the betrothed, but allowed us those wedded by Chuppah (the marriage covering) and betrothal. Blessed art Thou, Who sanctifiest Israel by Chuppah and betrothal’ -“

A small dowry would be given and the man would go about preparing a home for his espoused wife, anticipating his new life with her.

The couple would be engaged but would live separately until the marriage which could be up to a year later. The ceremony would conclude with a shared cup of wine between the couple. It is important to our account, to note that from the time of the espousal, the couple were bound together, and only death or divorce could separate them. the relationship was considered sacred, and any breach of it would be considered adultery, for which the possible punishment would range from divorce to death by stoning.

When Mary returned from a three month stay with her cousin Elizabeth, she announced to her husband that she was with child, by the Holy Ghost. Luke gives us the account of the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel, that she would conceive a Son, when the “Power of the highest overshadowed her”, and that He would reign on the throne of His father David forever.

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1:32-33)

The carpenter, Joseph was a Tsaddiq, that is a righteous man, according to the piety of the Old Testament, and of the Law of Moses. Therefore this upsetting news threw his soul into tremendous conflict. The news shocked and mortified him, on the one hand. This was scandalous and would certainly expose Mary and her family to shame, dishonor and reproach. How could she have betrayed him so? What actually happened?

On the other hand, Joseph was both a merciful as well as a just and honorable man. What would be the best way to divorce her, for divorce her he must. There was a provision in the law of Moses that if during an engagement, a man finds “uncleanness” in her he was allowed “put her away” (divorce),

When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.(Deuteronomy 24:1)

But this was village life, and the people of Nazareth and the surrounding towns would know everything about each other, the reproach would be lifelong and costly. Mary would be ruined, and it would be very unlikely that any would consent to marry her, in view of the disgrace.

On the other hand, He could “Put her away privately”.

One could either sue for divorce before a magistrate, bring charges and proof, and obtain the bill of divorcement in that fashion, which would involve the public naming and exposure of the wife being put away, and in some cases possibly stoning.

Or there was another option, a private divorce without the public disclosure of the reason for the Divorce. this would raise questions, and even cast doubt upon Joseph himself, (Did he abandon her? What was the problem?).

By simply handing her a bill of divorcement in the presence of two witnesses, he could spare her the utter reproach and shame for the most part.

The scripture says “while he thought on these things…” (but for Joseph such thought was agonizing wrestling, perplexity, sorrow, hurt, and doubt). What to do ? How do I fulfill Righteousness? How can I protect Mary? How and I going to live with the reproach?

But that night the Angel of the LORD came to him in a dream. It would take a dream from God to resolve Joseph’s doubts. Whatever he had thought of Mary before, nothing less than a divine revelation would calm the storm that erupted when she told him she was pregnant, with child by an act of God.

It must have been startling to Joseph to be addressed as “Joseph, Son of David…” for though he was a direct descendant of David, the fortunes of the house of David had long ago seemingly diminished, it had been centuries since a Son of David sat on the throne, in fact currently the throne of Judah was occupied by an Edomite!

The tree of the house of David had been reduced to a stump, few expected the “shoot “to spring forth out of it, especially in such mean and lowly circumstances.

The Angel instructed him to go ahead and marry his espoused, pregnant wife, for she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Then the Angel preached the virgin birth, long anticipated, since Adam and Eve had first heard of the promise, in their trial in the garden.

They had refused accountability when God brought the first couple up for inquest. Then God moved on to the serpent. But he asked him no questions for he had no intention of saving the Devil. Instead he made an announcement to the serpent that must have seemed to our first parents, hanging their heads in shame, like a beam of light, penetrating the gloom of the fall,

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)

Salvation would come, the primal curse would be reversed and the Serpent and all of his works would be decisively crushed, but not by the seed of a man, rather by “the seed of the Woman”! A virgin born Savior would come into the world, and ‘destroy the works of the Devil’ once and for all.

It was given to Joseph to confer upon the child the name, “Jesus”, (Jeshua) , which means “Jahweh will Save”.

Israel had long awaited a Savior, another ultimate Judge, such as Samson, Gideon or Jephthah. They had longed for the removal of the Gentile Yoke, an the restoration of the Sovereignty and scepter to Judah and to greater Israel. But the Angel tells Joseph that this Savior, the King Messiah, will first save the people from something even more basic than the yoke of Gentile powers, “He shall save the People from their sins”.

Alfred Eidersheim shows us that the fact that this was conveyed to Joseph in a dream , disposed him to accept and act unquestioningly. Dreams were highly regarded and seen as signs of the very blessing of God himself in those days.

The fact that such an announcement came to Him in a dream, would dispose Joseph all the more readily to receive it. ‘A good dream’ was one of the three things55 popularly regarded as marks of God’s favour; and so general was the belief in their significance, as to have passed into this popular saying: ‘If any one sleeps seven days without dreaming (or rather, remembering his dream for interpretation), call him wicked’ (as being unremembered of God5657). Thus Divinely set at rest, Joseph could no longer hesitate. The highest duty towards the Virgin-Mother and the unborn Jesus demanded an immediate marriage, which would afford not only outward, but moral protection to both.58 ( The Life And Times Of Jesus The Messiah, Alfred Eidersheim, Eerdmans)

Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments

How and When God Loved the World… John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. ( John 3:16)

There is nothing so important as that we get the Gospel right. Distortions of the gospel are heresies and rightfully rejected. This is why religious arguments are extremely necessary. We have to hash out the truth and challenge any deviations, because what we are dealing with is of eternal significance.

Recently I preached a message on Psalm 85 called Mercy and Truth are Met Together,

The teaching has come under intense scrutiny because of something I said about John 3:16. I made a statement about the Greek verb tenses, (something I learned from a teacher named David Pawson, for I admittedly am no Greek scholar).

I said that the verse points to a one time action, “In this way did God love the World…” . God loved the world once.

First of all to clear up confusion, we must determine what the term “the World” means in the gospel of John, for there are eval possibilities; The World can mean the creation, or it can mean the earth, or it can mean mankind, or it can mean the way humanity organizes itself to the exclusion of the only true God.

In John’s gospel we are told that the “the world knew him not”( John 1:10) that Jesus prayed “that the world may believe.”(John 17:21) furthermore in the New Testament, we see that Saints are those “Of whom the world was not worthy”(Hebrews 11;18), John 14:17, “whom the world cannot receive”; (John 14:17) and that , “If the world hateth you …it hated me…”( John 15:18) and that the wold is hostile and at enmity with Christ. We are told that the “World cannot receive Him or known Him…” , because it cannot see Christ.

Watchman Neee makes this point very powerfully in His classic book, “Love Not The World”,

… since the day when Adam opened the door for evil to enter God’s creation, the world order has shown itself to be hostile to God. The world “knew not God” (1 Cor. 1:21), “hated” Christ (John 15:18) and “cannot receive” the Spirit of truth (14:17). “Its works are evil” (John 7:7) and “the friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). Hence Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). He has “overcome the world” (16:33) and “the victory that hath overcome the world” is “our faith” in him (1 John 5:4). For, as the verse of John 12 that heads this study affirms, the world is under judgment. (Love Not The World, Watchman Nee)

But in spite of all of that and more, God loved the World. Even in English the verse John 3:16 is in the past tense… “For God so Loved the World…”. These are the words of Jesus… not “God so LOVES the World, but God so loved the Wold…”. John 3:16 is speaking of Love as an action, something God did once, but something which has eternal effect addicting out of that action.

I made the point, (which evidently some people found very offensive) that there is no ongoing, up or down , back and forth relationship between God and the world, as if it could be improved or there can be some kind of new understanding or breakthrough in the relationship between God and the World.,

God’s attitude towards the World is uncompromising, it is under judgment, the sentence is passed and the verdict is in…. nothing is going to change that. There is only one locus of the Love of God for this world…the cross of Calvary. The Love of JESUS shown on Calvary is eternal, we who have believed in it and departed from this wold, will know it and enjoy it forever,

God did something once, and only once which still makes it possible for the world to know and experience the love of God… GOD SENT HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, in the Incarnation, to die for our sins. That was how God loved the World and that is when Go loved the World.

I am not saying (as I have been erroneously accused of saying), “God doesn’t love sinners”, or that the time has run out on the Love of God ( perish the thought!). All I am saying is that the only basis this world has for experiencing the Love of God , is on the ground of the Incarnation and the finished work of the cross.

The Apostle John put it so much better than I,

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.( I John 4:9-10)

How did God love the World? The same way God loved the complaining and murmuring Israelites in the wilderness, when they were dying due to their own rebellion against Him…

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.( John 3:14-16)

John 3:16 cannot be understood independently of John 3:14. Jesus was illustrating how God loved the world, by use of an old Testament typological story. When Jesus said “For God So loved the World…” it has been pointed out that that could be better translated “For so, (Thus) did God love the World…” or “In this manner did God love the World..” .

In the story in numbers we see how God loved the World. As Pawson pointed out, God didn’t remove the snakes and stop the deaths of the rebels. By lifting up the serpent on the pole, He gave them a way out!!!! The Serpent Judged, and death dead and hanging on a pole is what they saw. But wen they looked upon it, they lived!

The cross of Jesus is the death of nth, and ‘the judgment of this world…” nothing less than the casting down of the Prince of this world…”

Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. (John 12 : 31-32))

God will still judge all that is false, evil, sinful and iniquitous…but in the Cross of Jesus, He gives us an escape from wrath, and a way to be forgiven, loved and brought into the family forever.

But that one time, which has effects that will radiate forever, God loved the World, He took and action, costly to himself, He gave his Son. The World cannot know God or his love on any other basis than that.

I welcome any thoughts…

Posted in Uncategorized | 56 Comments

The Line Of The Messiah… Matthew Nativity pt 1

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon;  And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;And Jesse begat David the king;

…and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;  And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa;And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon:

And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;  And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:1-16)

We begin the Nativity story of Matthew with a genealogy. Each gospel has unique spiritual burdens to communicate, Matthew’s burden is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham and his seed, and that a King would descend from him who would bless all of the world, and that through him would come a Kingdom which would fill all of the earth.

This is a royal geneology, starting from Abraham, and leading all of the way down through the centuries to Joseph, who married Mary after she had conceived Jesus, the Messiah.

It is also an overview of the history of Israel, the chosen people of God. The History is roughly divided in this geneology into three periods, consisting of 14 generations each.

The history of Israel, represented in this genealogy, begins with the selection by God of Abraham. God chose Abraham, an elderly, childless , idolatrous Shepherd, to be the forefather of a new race of people. He would sire them through his barren and also elderly wife, Sarai.

Israel begins with a miracle birth, and continues through a series of miracle births. Abraham first had a Son Isaac, Isaac also was childless, until he begat Jacob, and then Jacob begat 12 Sons, who became Israel. The patriarchal period proceeds through the difficult period of the Exodus, the conquest of the Holy land under Joshua, then the period of the Judges.

One strange scene from the Patriarchal period is mentioned in this genealogy, that is the reference to Tamar and Judah. Tamar was chosen to be in the Messianic line, she was to be part of the great human conduit through which the Messiah, the Seed of Abraham would bless all of the families of the earth!.

The problem was that she was married to Judah’s son, and he was evil. He died young and according to levirate law, she was to be allowed to have a Son through Judah’s next son, Onan. He was evil also and practiced ‘coitus interruptus”. God struck him dead. Judah had one more Son, but feared to give her to Him, even though she was chosen to be in te Messianic line.

She disguised herself as a Harlot, and allowed Judah himself to take her. She conceived a son, Phares, through this act of trickery and there is not one word of condemnation for her doing so. She was to be in that Messianic line and she would not be denied! God condemned and reproved Judah but not her. This is one of the ways Jesus came into the world.

When Joshua beseiged the city of Jericho in the time of the conquest, he sent two spies in to reconnoiter the city. there was one woman in the city who proved to be sympathetic to the Israelites. Her name was Rahab and she was a harlot. But she believed in the God of Israel, and cried out for mercy in view of the coming destruction of her world. She was saved, and converted to Jahweh, and married into the house of Israel. She bore a Son named Boaz, the great, great grandfather of King David.

The Period of judges was marked by tremendous cycles of national apostasy, slavery, then repentance and deliverance by God appointed judges. But Boaz is an anomaly in his faithless times, a true and faithful man, blessed of God . His wife is a convert, from Moab.

When an Israelite family left the Holy land and went to Moab to seek relief in a famine, She married one of the sons of the family. Eventually both sons and the Father died, leaving Ruth, Orpah and Naomi, (their Jewish Mother-in-law) as widows.

Naomi wanted to go back to the Holy Land but gave Ruth and Orpah a chance to return to Moab and start life again with their own families. Naomi gave Ruth the opportunity to leave her as Orpah did. . What follows is one of the most heart rendering conversion prayers and pledges I have ever heard…

And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:  Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.( Ruth 1:16-17)

The next period in the genealogy tracks the line of Jesus through the royal period. King David had wanted to build a temple, “A house for the name of God”. But God told him through his prophet Nathan, that David would not be allowed to build a “house for his name”, but that God would build a (Dynasty) house for David. David’s Sons would be “Sons of God”, God would discipline them should they go astray, but He would be A Father to them and they would be as his Sons. And one of David’s Sons would rule on the throne forever.

“He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.” ( 2 Samuel 7:13)

Thus David’s Son would build the true house of God and of his Kingdom there would be no end.

This second section of the geneology, the “Kingdom years” is an unsparingly honest account of that period.

David begets Solomon….but through “her who had been the wife of Uriah”. Uriah is not an ancestor of the Messiah, why is his name in there? We are reminded of the deep sin of even him who was regarded by God himself, as a “Man after God’s own heart”. How we see that we all need a Savior! Even the line of the very “seed of the woman’ is tainted by the deepest of sins.

The “Sons of David”, who were the Kings of Judah, were a mixed bag. David, in spite of his flaws, loved the LORD. Solomon began well, He loved the LORD and the LORD named him Jedidiah, which means “Loved by the LORD”. But Solomon’s life record is a shocking account of apostasy, compromise and even idolatry! Solomon’s son Rehoboam, split the Kingdom, then proceeded a mixed bag of Sons who followed either in David’s steps of righteousness or were appalling apostates.

Ahaz remodeled the temple, stripping out features such as the brass sea, (Symbolizing Israel’s role as intercessor for the nations”), the covered, special entryway, (Symbolizing the unique relationship the Sons of David had had with Jahweh), and He even copied a pagan altar in Damascus and hauled it into the remodeled temple of Jahweh! But his Son, Hezekiah, was a shining example of faith and Sonship to God.

Hezekiah, (who had been raised and trained by the prophet Isaiah), had a Son named Mannaseh, who was completely sold out to evil.

When Mannaseh introduced Moloch worship to Judah, persecuted the prophets, (It is believed he sawed the prophet Isaiah in half, in a log), Judah crossed the line. She would be carried away to Babylon, and the temple would be destroyed. It didn’t happen in Mannaseh’s life, there would several other kings, including the reformer Josiah, ( a shining light), but his evil insured Judah’s destruction. ironically, Mannaseh repented to God, and received forgiveness of his sins and evil.

The last Kings of Judah, who were also Sons of David, and in the line of Jesus, are referred to as Jeconiah and his brethren. Jeconiah too was so evil, God pronounced a ban on him, neither He or his seed could ever be King,

Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah. (Jeremiah 22:30)

Jeconiah, the second to the last King of Judah, the Son of David, was disowned by God himself. God said through Jeremiah, “Even if he was my signet ring, I would tear him off!”. None of his descendants would be able to be King. In his Son’s day, (Zedekiah) the Kingdom was removed, and the last Sons of David disappeared, seemingly without the fulfillment.

Does this disqualify Jesus from being the ultimate Son of David?

Definitely not, because Matthew’s is the geneology of Joseph, not Mary. Jesus is a direct descendant of David from this line and from another branch, leading to Mary. Jesus is not physically the son of Joseph, so the curse on Jeconiah does not fall on him.

Finally we have the third set of fourteen generations, from the Captivity in Babylon, to the return from exile to the birth of Messiah.

We see the name “Zerubabel”. Zerubabel is a direct descendant of King David, an ancestor of Jesus, and a descendant of Jeconiah. He is the leader of the returning captives, but he is not called “King” because of the curse. He is the Governor of Judea. He oversaw, with Zechariah the prophet, the rebuilding of the temple, howbeit in a much reduced and truncated form.

All about this man is humiliation; the smaller temple and struggle to build it, the reduction in size of the Kingdom of Judah, the demotion, from King to “Governor”, and even his name is a name of humiliation.

All of the rest of the line of David were granted gracious names, usually incorporating the name of God in them, such as “Hezekiah” i.e. ” in the strength of God”, etc. Zerubabel is a title which reminds us of the humiliation of the captivity, for it means “The seed of Babel”.

But God delights in taking the crushed, the bruised and lowly reed, the dimly burning flax, and is able to make them into useful and beautiful vessels of glory. Thus he promises Zerubabel,

Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth;And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts (Haggai 2: 21-23)

Thus in the line of the Messiah, who would come as the real and true Israel, the fulfillment of the ideal name of Israel, “One who strives with God and Prevails”, the whole history is in the geneology through a series of names and the stories that surround them.

From Abraham, the lone rock who would become the quarry of the Kingdom, to David who would be used to establish the Kingdom, to Jeconiah and his brothers,, those who would flounder and squander the Kingdom, almost leaving it as a stump.

But a shoot would come out of the stump, unpromising looking for sure, but which would lead to nothing less than the Millenium and the Kingdom of God’s reign to come in all of the earth.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
    or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
    with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
    with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11:1-4)

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Our Pilgrim Holiday… ThanksGiving

America the Beautiful

Words by Katharine Lee Bates with melody by by Samuel Ward

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

My Plea … Kristin Randles

My greatest and most desirous plea; Oh Lord, keep us ever close to Thee. Let not the things and traps of this world with it’s wickedness & sin, ensnare us to take our heart away from Thee, I cry Oh Lord, let your Spirit brace us and keep us humbly in Thee … that we shall have a tender God conscience heart, eschewing all evil with it’s temptation, surrendering, clinging …. totally to Thee.

Thank you my sister Christina Givens – DeLaGarza for inspiring me.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments