Day 148 –MATTHEW’S CHRISTMAS
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”… And he called His name Jesus. Matthew 1:23, 25
Each of the four Gospels begins with the coming of Jesus into this world. But each has its own take on what is included in that coming. Matthew chapter 1 introduces the Saviour by three titles or names:
(1) “Jesus Christ, the son of David” (1:1) (2) “Immanuel” (1:23) (3) “Jesus Christ” (1:18) and “Jesus” (1:21, 23)
Other names or descriptions of the newborn Christ are used by others in chapter 2: “King of the Jews” (2:7), “the Christ” (2:4), “ruler” (2:6a), and “shepherd” (2:6b). That’s a lot of names! What do they tell us of the coming saviour?
First, He is “Son of David”. This takes us back to the promises given to King David and links this newborn with the promised inheritor of David’s throne. In II Samuel 7:12-13 God speaks through His prophet, Nathan, to David and says “I will raise up your offspring after you…and will establish His kingdom… and I will establish the throne of His kingdom forever.” So, Jesus is the fulfillment of this promise of the One of David’s decedents who would establish an eternal kingdom. The promise was repeated in Psalm 132:11-12, Isaiah 11:1, and Jeremiah 23:5-6 – passages that say even more about the righteous nature of this reign.
Second, He is “Immanuel” which means “God with us”. In Matthew 1:23 the writer is quoting from Isaiah 7:14 (Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”), and 8:8, 10, where God through Isaiah tells the people of his own time that even in the tragic Assyrian invasion God would be with them. So, the Isaiah 7:14 promise goes ahead to the birth of Jesus, while Isaiah 8 refers to God’s presence in Isaiah’s dday, and, we might add, that at the end of Matthew’s Gospel (28:20) the promise continues to apply to us “(I am with you always , to the end of the age”).
Third, He is “Jesus” or “Jesus Christ”. Jesus is the Greek form of “Joshua”, which means Jehovah is salvation. In other words, God saves. Salvation from one’s sins is essential and is available through Jesus because of who He is and what He has done. Adding “Christ” to his given name is like saying this One to be born to Mary is the long-awaited Anointed One, or Messiah. The genealogy (1:1-16) traces Jesus back through His legal father, Joseph, to David, and to Abraham and shows that Jesus had a legitimate right to the throne of David. Jesus is the culmination of God’s plan – a Saviour-King.
Many other things of note are found in Matthew’s account of Christmas. One of these is that Jesus is Saviour of all who accept Him. Notice that Abraham is the father of more than the Jewish nation. It was promised that through him the whole world would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3;22:18). As if to add to that point, the genealogy includes Gentile women (Tamar and Ruth) and a Gentile man, Uriah the Hittite, the husband of Bathsheba. Uriah was not an Israelite either. The Saviour was for all.
As a footnote of sorts, Matthew 2:1-12 tells of the coming of the Wise Mento see the newborn king. By the time of their arrival, Mary & Joseph had no doubt found lodgings in a house and Herod ordered all Jewish boys two and under killed – figuring the age based on when the wise men had begun their journey. The emphasis in this part of the story is on Jesus as King, hence Herod’s fear of the “king of the Jews” and the “ruler” who would shepherd Israel (2:2,6).
Lastly, there is the nativity itself in 1:18-25. It is emphasized that Mary was a virgin (v.18), that Joseph concluded that he could not proceed with the marriage but wanted to end it as quietly as possible for Mary’s sake (v. 19), that it took God’s intervention through a dream to go ahead with the marriage because what was happening was in fulfilment of scripture (vv. 20-23), and that Joseph (like Mary in Luke’s account) was obedient to God’s command in going ahead with the marriage and the naming of the baby (vv. 24-25). God would give us the details of the birth in Luke’s Gospel. In Matthew’s account the focus is on Joseph as the ideal husband for Mary and legal father for Jesus, and on Jesus’ right to the claim of Messiahship.
- Read Matthew chapters 1 and 2.
- Genealogies bring to light many interesting connections, pro and con. In Jesus’ family history there were kings and commoners, men and women, heroic leaders and scoundrels, the moral and the immoral, etc. How important was it that Jesus be born by the intervention of the Holy Spirit – a virgin birth?
- Ponder Joseph and his role in the events of the incarnation and afterward. How could he be both “a just man” (bound to the Old Testament law) and a man “unwilling to put her to shame” – both righteous and compassionate? What kind of a man did God need for Joseph’s role?
- How is God both righteous in character and compassionate towards us?
Day 149 – MARK’S CHRISTMAS
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1
There are no angels in Mark’s presentation of Jesus Christ, no wise men, no shepherds, no priests and prophetesses, no Bethlehem, no Herod. There is the prophet Isaiah, and there is John the Baptist. And there is this dramatic first sentence: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. The drama is caught in the music of Michael Card and his lyrics, which follow.
The beginning, the beginning of the gospel
Of Jesus Christ, the Son of God
The beginning of the Good News
Of Christ, the Son of God
It was the question
Of all questions
A demand to seek the price
And the answer
Of all answers
You are the Christ
The beginning of the gospel
Of Jesus Christ, the Son of God
The beginning of the Good News
Of Christ, the Son of God
Standing in the
Of the death-drenched deed
The response to the wordless question
This is God’s own Son
The beginning (Jesus) of the gospel (Jesus)
The beginning (Jesus) of the Good News (Jesus)
The beginning (Jesus) of the gospel (Jesus)
The beginning (Jesus) of the Good News (News)
Of Christ, the Son of God
Of Christ, the Son of God
As with the Gospel of Matthew, the names given to the Son of Mary are significant: “Jesus Christ … Son of God”. We have already seen in Matthew that “Jesus” means “God saves” and “Christ” is a Messianic title meaning “Anointed One” or “King”. He is the Saviour-King
He is also “Son of God”. Mark will return to this title in several later places:
1:11 [God speaks] “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased”
3:11 [evil spirits called out] “You are the Son of God”
5:7 [a demon cries out] “What have You to do with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God”
9:7 [God speaks at the Transfiguration] “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him”
13:32 [Jesus speaks about the timing of the last day]“nor the Son, but only the Father”
14:61 [the high priest asked] “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”
15:39 [the centurion at the crucifixion said] “Truly, this was the Son of God”
Throughout the gospel, Jesus is seen as the Son of God. This is said by God the Father, evil spirits, the high priest (in mocking disbelief), and a Roman centurion. Jesus is a member of the trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. A Christmas we celebrate no ordinary birth of no ordinary person.
As stated already, Mark draws attention to Isaiah’s prophecy of John the Baptist to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. He would do this as a messenger – by words of introduction, by preaching and performing baptisms of people who were repenting of sins. Then, on cue, “Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee”. So, already, by verse 4 of chapter 1, we are 30 years beyond Bethlehem’s stable scene.
Mark was concerned with presenting the reason for Jesus’ coming. It had to do with sin, repentance, and forgiveness, brought by One “mightier” and more worthy than John (1:7), One approved by the voice from heaven as the “Beloved Son” (1:11).
- 1. Read Mark 1:1-15.
- What is the focus of your Christmas celebration? It should be more than the lights and presents and food, we know that. But it should also be more than the setting and ceremonies and music, as lovely as those things are. Our sites are to be placed much higher – on the Son, the mighty and worthy One.
- “Gospel” means “good news” – good news of salvation brought by Jesus who would die and rise again to accomplish what we most need.
- Jesus is elsewhere called the “author” of our faith (the originator and captain -Hebrews 12:2), the “firstborn” (preeminent One), and the “Alpha” (Revelation 1:8 and 22:13 – the beginning of all things). Here in Mark His arrival is “the beginning” of the good news. He, Himself, is the beginning of the gospel.
Day 150 – LUKE’S CHRISTMAS
26 And it had been revealed to_him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Luke 2:26
Did you ever notice the many twosomes in Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus?
2 babies: John and Jesus
2 couples: Mary & Joseph + Elizabeth & Zechariah
2 prophecies: Mary’s + Zechariah’s
2 worshipping choruses: the angels + the shepherds
2 towns: Bethlehem + Nazareth
2 kings: Herod and Jesus
2 spiritual leaders: Simeon + Anna
2 names (or groups of names): Jesus + Christ, Lord, Son of God, Son of the Most High
It would be wonderful to dwell on each of these for a while, but I’ll save that for another time – this is only one day’s devotional, not a series on the twosomes of the nativity! Instead, we’ve considered the different names given the newborn in the other gospels, so let’s focus there.
In “Jesus” we have His given name, the name His parents gave Him and by which He was known in His neighbourhood growing up. It was the name that pointed to His humanity. It means “God saves” and only a person like us, who was tempted like us, yet without sin, could die for us and save us.
The other names are more like titles: Son of the Most High, Son of God, Lord, Christ the Lord, the Lord’s Christ. The angel Gabriel said to Mary, “He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:32) When linked to the statement that follows –“will give to Him the throne of His father David” – this title tells us that the Messiah whom Israelites looked for would be divine – God Himself.
“The child to be born shall be called holy – the Son of God.” (1:34). The deity of Jesus is affirmed once again – the holy Son of God.
Zechariah said of his son, John, “You, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways…” (1:76) The term “Lord” is linked to the divine title, “Most High”, as found in 1:32. He is Lord or Master because He is God.
The angels said to the shepherds, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” (2:11) Again we have “Lord”, this time linked to “Christ”, the long-expected Messiah, the one anointed as King.
Luke wrote about Simeon that “he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” (2:26) In Revelation 11:15 it is announced, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ…” – in other words, ‘of the Lord’s Christ’ – the same phrase as in Luke 2:2. Jesus is “God the Father’s Christ”. The word “Lord” is used of God the Father, the supreme One. Jesus is the One the Father chose and sent to be the Messiah.
So, we have “Jesus” born in a lowly manger and we have this series of titles that attest to His deity, His greatness.
- Read Luke 1 and 2.
- What impression do these names of Jesus that Luke highlights make on you?
- Meditate on one or more of the other twosomes found in Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus.
Day 151 – JOHN’S CHRISTMAS
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.
Like Mark, the apostle John shares no details of Jesus’ birth. But He does refer to it indirectly, and, like the other three Gospels, he uses meaningful, descriptive names for this One born in Bethlehem. The names are “the Word”, “the light”, “the only Son from the Father”, and “Jesus Christ”, “the Christ”, “the Lord”, and “the Lamb of God” – seven names or titles, in just 34 verses!
And John takes us back further than the other gospel writers – to the beginning of time, to the creation, – before he also speaks about His coming into the world and coming to His own.
John goes back to “the beginning”, a reference to creation. The “Word” and the “light” of whom he speaks is the same one who came into the world (v. 9), came unto His own people (v. 11), was made flesh (v. 14), was revealed as the Son of God (also in v. 14), and whom we know as Jesus Christ (v. 18). So, like the other gospels, the majesty and power or authority of Jesus as Son of God is emphasized. What does each of the terms used of Jesus bring to our understanding of who He is and why He came?
Word: The Word has always been God Himself. Here the term is applied to Jesus, the Son of God, in particular. Creation came into being by his word: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth… And God said, ‘Let there be …’” (Genesis 1:1,2) When the Word spoke, everything came into existence – light, space, dry land and vegetation, sun and stars, birds and sea creatures, creatures on land and humankind. In the Word was life and light. How do we know this?
“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3)
Light: Jesus called Himself the “Light of the world” (John 8:12;9:5). He overcame sin (‘darkness”), not the other way around (John 1:5).
God Made flesh: Verse 14 says, “The Word became flesh.” God the Son became Jesus of Nazareth. He lived among John’s generation. His is another way of saying He was “Immanuel”, God with us. John, Peter, and James saw Him in His glory (on the Mount of transfiguration – recorded in Matt. 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9). But they also saw His glory in the way He lived and taught, with “grace and truth” (1:14).
Son of God: He became flesh but He did not cease to be God.
Jesus Christ: Again, this combination is telling us He was Saviour-Messiah.
The Lamb of God: John the Baptist introduced Jesus of Nazareth as, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (1:29). John’s hearers were familiar with lambs used in sacrifice to pay for the sins of the offerer. Jesus was the Lamb who did not need to be offered repeatedly, but only once for all time (Romans 6:10; Hebrews 7:27; 9:24-28; 10:10; I Peter 3:18).
The Apostle John’s telling of the Christmas story is like what we see in the other gospels. We see God, in the person of the Son, become a human being – the Word made flesh, a baby in Bethlehem, a youth visiting the temple when He was 12, a young man being introduced by John the Baptist as the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world. John also reminds us that the light He brings is available to all who will accept Him:
“ But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (1:12-13)
- Read John 1:1-18.
- Though the four gospels present Jesus’ coming in different ways, do you see unity in how He is presented?
- Which of the various names or titles given Jesus at His first coming is especially meaningful to you? Why?
- Have you believed and received Him?
Day 152 – The Exodus: Leadership
“Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:10
The exodus is one of the most pivotal events of the Bible. Frequently, from the Book of Exodus through The Revelation, in both the Old and New Testaments we find references to the dramatic event of the moving of the nation of Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land. A Bible scholar wrote this about the comprehensive treatment of the exodus event in the pages of scripture:
The Exodus Tradition in the Bible by Brian M. Britt
The exodus—the story of the Israelites’ deliverance from oppression in the land of Egypt—is retold in the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament. Scholars call such recurrences of the story’s themes and language outside of the book of Exodus “the exodus tradition.” This tradition is found especially in Deuteronomy, in the historical books, in the Prophets, and as a paradigm for the salvation announced in the New Testament. The figure of Moses as the leader of the exodus and the source of divine law appears not only in Exodus and Deuteronomy but also in the latest books of the Hebrew canon, such as Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel.
Dr. Britt goes on to mention references to the exodus in the Old Testament books of history and in the psalms, the prophets, in the New Testament gospels and epistles. He concludes:
The prevalence of the exodus tradition in the Bible demonstrates its importance as a foundational collective memory from ancient Israel that predates the monarchy and survives into the time of the early rabbis and followers of Jesus. Postbiblical exodus traditions take many forms, from the Jewish observance of Passover to Christian celebrations of Easter, Muslim teachings about the Prophet Musa, and modern liberation theologies. Though many modern readers have asked whether episodes of the exodus, from the plagues in Egypt to the parting of the Red Sea, “really happened, ”the exodus remains one of the most powerful narratives of divine compassion and liberation found in the Bible.
Brian M. Britt, “Exodus Tradition in the Bible”, n.p. [cited 16 Oct 2021]. Online: https://www.bibleodyssey.org:443/en/passages/related-articles/exodus-tradition-in-the-bible
The exodus is foundational to the Jewish and Christian traditions. The English word “exodus” is taken from the Greek and means “a going out”. Seeing that it is of such great importance, it is appropriate that we spend some time reflecting on aspects of this event and the meaning these aspects should have in our own lives. Accordingly, today’s devotional is the first of seven in which I will draw on lessons to be learned from the exodus.
The first lesson is about leadership. In Exodus 3:10, God calls on Moses to lead the people out of slavery to a land He will give them. He becomes the first leader of the exodus years. Others like his brother Aaron and sister Miriam, various heads off the tribes of Israel, and Joshua, his successor, are at times co-leaders with him. We are introduced to Moses in Exodus 3, at the time of his birth, and say ‘goodbye’ to him 120 years later at his death in Deuteronomy 34:5-8. What do we learn about leadership from Moses?
- He was of humble birth. Moses was the son of Hebrew slaves in Egypt. As an Israelite, he was a member of an oppressed people. The Pharaoh of Egypt had decreed that all Hebrew male babies were to be killed. For him to survive, his mother had to devise a plan and his sister had to take a risk of speaking to Pharaoh’s daughter (Exodus2:1-10). Throughout his, leaders have emerged from disadvantaged circumstances: e.g., India’s Prime Minister Modi (born into a caste that is described as educationally and socially disadvantaged), Benjamin Franklin (who became an indentured servant at age 10), and Abraham Lincoln (who was born in a log cabin, had very little schooling, and declared bankruptcy in his 20s).
- He was given a quality education. Despite of his lowly birth, Moses received the best education a person of his time could get. He was raised in the Pharoah’s house. No doubt that education helped him in many ways when he took on the leadership of the Hebrew people. A leader takes advantage of opportunities given him or her.
- He hesitated at God’s call upon his life. Moses protested to God that he was not up to the task, but God reminded him that God Himself would do what was necessary to get the people out of Egypt. And when Moses said he was not a public speaker, God gave him Aaron as his spokesperson. See Exodus 3-4. I was a shy, non-assertive kid and young man, but God called me to become a pastor and a professor, both positions requiring me to be up front teaching and chairing committees, etc. God is equal to whatever the calling it is He places on us.
- He benefited from having assistants who helped carry the load of leadership. Moses’ first assistant was Aaron, then others such as the elders of the tribes of Israel, Miriam, Hur, and Joshua. We may think we are sent out alone, but in God’s plan, others will come along side us.
- He needed perseverance to face all kinds of troubles as a leader. The troubles Moses faced were from within the nation, from without, and from within himself. From within the nation, there was the complaining about lack of water and lack of variety in food. There was the rebellion of Korah and his followers. There was the people’s slip into false worship, and Aaron’s failure to contain them. And so on. From without, there was the initial opposition of the Egyptians, and later Sihon and Og, and the Midianites. From within himself, there was his striking of the rock. So, there were a lot of struggles, but Moses persevered.
- He showed reverence toward God who had called him. Moses leaned upon God during these times when he experienced the loneliness of leadership. Hebrews 11:24-28 says about Moses’ faith, “4 ByfaithMoses, when he was grown up, refused_to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he_left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he_kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.”
- He exemplified meekness. Meekness does not mean having a retiring nature. Meekness (at least, spiritual meekness) is surrendering one’s rights to God. It means denying self for the good of others and the worship and praise of God. Moses was that kind of person. Remember that he could have been the forefather of a new people of God, but asked God to spare the nation (Exodus 32:10-14). This is why the Bible says, “Now the_man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were_on the face of the earth.”
Consider these words from Mark Caner in the journal Inner Resources for Leaders, 3:2 (2010), “… meekness is not about giving up power but rather diligently harnessing it for the good of others. In other words, one must decide to act meek. It is not innate. It is an impressive self-control virtue that comes from our power as leaders of our respective organizations. Thus, what it really comes down to is what source you choose to follow: God or the world.”
[ https://www.regent.edu/journal/inner-resources-for-leaders/spiritual-meekness-a-virtue-for-christian-leaders/ ]
- He conscientiously transferred power when his time as leader came to an end. “15 Moses_spoketo the LORD, saying, 16 “Let the LORD, the God of the_spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation17 who shall go out before them and come in before them,who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the_congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no_shepherd.” (Numbers 25:15-17) When God made clear to Moses that he would not enter the land, Moses accepted that and thought of the people. They would need good leadership. So, he requested a succession plan. He then publicly placed Joshua before the people and laid his hands on him and blessed him (Deuteronomy 34:9). Godly leaders make straight the path for the next leader.
All of us are leaders of some kind, in some circumstance of life. This may be seen in being a parent, in participating in sports, or in taking on volunteer roles. Volunteer roles in a church setting might mean teaching a Sunday School class, leading a youth group, holding a committee responsibility, or organizing a kitchen or other type of work crew. In a community setting there are similar roles that we might accept. In the workplace, we might be promoted to roles that involve supervising workers or projects. Leadership activities like these can change the course and direction of your life.
I recall one day when my departmental director at the university where I worked as a faculty member, dropped by my office and asked if I could spare a little time for a conversation, then added, “This might change your life.” He was contemplating taking a new position in the university and wanted to know whether I had interest in assuming his present position as Director. Leadership inevitably impacts the lives of others, as well. My father was for many years a plant manager in industry. When he died, a former employee came to pay his respects and told me how early on in my father’s tenure after being transferred to fix things at a troubled plant, this employee, in a junior management position, walked out, saying he was quitting. My father followed him to the parking lot and explained how he needed this man to help him with the changes in the workplace that were needed, asking him to reconsider and stay on. The man did so, and now, at the funeral home told me, “It was the best decision I ever made. Your father was a wonderful man to work for.” The man went on with his career and saw the workplace culture change in time.
It helps if we see God’s hand in our lives, placing us in a particular place and at a particular time and giving us responsibility to accept. It helps to submit to God’s calling upon our lives, so that we might say with Abraham’s servant (Genesis 24:27), “I, being in the way, the Lord led me.”
- 1. Read Numbers 27:12-23.
- What leaders have positively influenced you? What made them beneficial leaders?
- Which of the eight aspects of leadership identified in Moses’ life do you think most speak to you now?
Day 153 The Exodus: A Promise Fulfilled
“He has granted to us His precious and very great promises.” II Peter 1:4
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) was a Jewish woman who fled Nazi-controlled Germany and, later, also Nazi-controlled France and became an author writing on political themes. A quotation from her offers a helpful definition of “promises”:
“Promises are the uniquely human way of ordering the future, making it predictable and reliable to the extent that this is humanly possible.”
We count on someone’s promise to provide something desirable in the future. Parents learn (or should learn) early on that they must be careful not to promise something they cannot, or very possibly, will not be able to fulfill. The child will hold them to that promise. As Dr. Arendt says, promises make something predictable – but only “to the extent that it is humanly possible” to do so. The challenging word in her quotation is “humanly”.
When the people of Israel were living in slavery in Egypt, God made a promise. In Exodus 2:23-25 we read that God heard the groaning and cries of the people. In chapter 6:4-8 we are told that God remembered His covenant (i.e., His firm promise) with Abraham. The promise was to bring the people out to the land that had been sworn to Abraham:
4 I also established mycovenant with them to give them the land of Canaan,the land in which they lived as sojourners. 5 Moreover, I_have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my_covenant. 6 Say therefore to the people of Israel,I am_the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the_burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from_slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an_outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 I_will take you to be my people, and I will be your God,and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who_has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore_to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to_you for a possession. I am the LORD.’”
So, we read in Exodus 12 that the people left Egypt and began their journey and in chapter 15 that God again promised that He would complete the earlier promise and see to it that they made it to the promised land, which He did.
Promises play an important role in our journey through life. When corrected, a child might promise not to do that naughty thing again. A parent might promise to always be there. On their wedding day, a couple promise each other to be faithful until death parts them. An organization may promise employment with certain benefits, or goods satisfactory or money refunded to a customer. A politician promises to accomplish certain desirable things to electors. And so on. But our promises come with the understanding that we’ll deliver “if humanly possible”.
God’s promises rely on His character – love for us, our best interests at heart – and on His ability to perform – His omnipotence. Some of His promises in the Bible are intended for a specific person, or a specific group. Some are conditional – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9). Others are general and available to all who seek Him “3 His divine power has granted to us all things that_pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of_Him who called us to_His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very_great promises, so that through them you may become_partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful_desire.”
The people of Israel had a hard time trusting in God to fulfill His promises, even though everything depended on what He said. How good am I at trusting His promises that are directed at me?
Your Turn :
- Read Exodus 6:1-14.
- When you do an Internet search on “promises of God” you will find sites that speak of 5, 20, 40, 100, 700 promises found in the Bible. With so many promises found in the Bible, simply read scripture and when a promise appears, stop and meditate on it and its application to your life. Here are some to start with:
Promises of God:
- Salvation: John 3:16
- Answered prayer: John 15:7-8 (conditional upon remaining in Jesus and His word remain in us)
- God has plans for your life: Romans 8:28-29; Jer. 29:11 (it involves becoming more like Jesus)
- Ongoing forgiveness: 1 John 1:9 (conditional we need to confess our sins)
- God’s continual presence: Hebrews 13:5; Mt 28:20
- God’s presence in the midst of difficulties: Isaiah 43:2
- God’s strength when yours is weak: Isaiah 40:29; 41:10
- God’s peace: Philippians 4:6-7
- Help with temptation: 1 Corinthians 10:13
- God’s Wisdom: James 1:5
- Physical Healing: Psalm 103:2-5
- God’s rest: Matthew 11:28-30 Conditional, taking Jesus’ yoke (his teachings) upon you
- God’s eternal plans for you: John 14:1-3
Source: Knollwood Christian Church, St. Louis Park, MN. https://www.knollwoodcc.org/hp_wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Awe-of-Gods-promises-sermon.pdf
Day 154 – The Passover & the Lord’s Supper
Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
I Corinthians 5:7b
As we follow the story of the exodus, we come to the crucial 10th plague (the death of the firstborn) and God’s provision for His people. That story is found in Exodus 12. The exodus itself was a promise fulfilled. The Passover offered a provision for now and a promise for the future.
The 10th plague was the worst of all. Think of how frightening it sounded. On a particular night the first born in every house and stable, from Pharaoh’s palace to the lowliest slaves shanty, would die: Exodus 11:4-6,
“4 So Moses said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘About_midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, 5 and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. 6 There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again.’”
Fear would have entered every heart. But, for those who would listen, there was an escape from this terror. Moses told the people to take a lamb without blemish, kill it at twilight, and spread some blood from it on the doorposts and lintel of their houses. They were to roast and eat the lamb, with their bags packed and their walking shoes handy. Exodus 12 gives these directions, along with instructions on observing this event forever (verses 14-28). That chapter also tells how the dread event happened and the Pharaoh finally relented and let the people of Israel go (verses 29-32). And so, the exodus began (verses 33-42) and the Passover observance was instituted (verses 43-51).
In Jesus’ day, the Passover was observed and Jesus and his disciples gathered on the assigned evening for the Passover meal. As the meal progressed, and when it was finished, the Lord drew some parallels to it and His own pending death, and gave instructions to continue this practice once He was gone, as a remembrance of Him: “This do in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). The New Testament church honoured that instruction by including observance of communion in their gatherings (I Corinthians 11:17-34). What are the parallels between the Passover Supper and the Lord’s Supper?
- A specific time was set in the calendar for observance. The Passover remembrance was to begin on the tenth day of the first month (the year was to start in the month they exited Egypt). In our calendar today, that would be sometime in March-April. The Lord’s Supper (Communion, Eucharist) came to be observed on Sundays, the day of resurrection). Some churches do this weekly; others, commonly one Sunday per month.
- It was a day to remember – to remember coming out of Egypt (Exodus 12:14, “This day shall be for you a memorial day”) and to remember the death of Christ on the cross (Luke 22:19, “Do this in remembrance of Me”).
- It involved the death of a lamb as a substitute for the sins of the people. For the Israelites, it was a lamb without blemish, a year-old male (Exodus 12:5-6). In the New Testament, Jesus is announced as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He is further identified as “Christ , our Passover Lamb, [who] has been sacrificed.” (I Corinthians 5:7) In I Peter 1:19, believers are said to have been ransomed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot”.
- At the initial Passover event, blood from the slain lamb was applied to the doorposts and lintel of the Israelites houses. This blood is called the “blood of the covenant” (Exodus24:8 and Zechariah 9:11). Name “Passover” comes from Exodus 12:13, “This blood shall be a sign for you…and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.” In Jesus’ day, He spoke of the cup (representing His shed blood) as “the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20) and instructed us to drink the fruit of the vine, saying it was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
- The Israelites also ate roasted lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread (Exodus 12:8 – “unleavened” because they ate hurriedly, with no time to wait). At the Lord’s Supper, we give thanks, take bread and break it, and eat it as a symbol of the body of Jesus that was broken unto death on a cross (Luke 22:19).
- The whole Passover ritual was evidence of a promise fulfilled, one God had made and now reiterated – the promise of freedom from slavery in Egypt and the promise of a new land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 12:24-27, 51). By His “strong hand” (Exodus 13:16), God brought them out of Egypt. In Christ, there is deliverance from sin and a way opened to a new and abundant life. “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2) See also John 3:16; II Corinthians 5:21; and I Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
The Bible presents a unified story. The message always points to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament pictures and the focal point.
Who was the Passover for? For all who believed and rested in the efficacy of the blood of the sacrificial lamb. Who is the Lord’s Supper for? For all who believe and are resting in the finished work of Christ, the Lamb of God.
- 1. Read Exodus 12 and Matthew 26:26-29.
- What value do you see in observing repeated “rituals”?
- Is the Lord’s Supper meaningful for just anyone? If not, for whom does it take on meaning and why?
- Does it have meaning for you?