A Savior, Who Is Christ the Lord

The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Verse 8 of Luke chapter 2 picks up with the shepherds who are out in their field at night. Depending on the version you read, they were in the same region as Mary and Joseph or in the same country. The translation has the same effect in either case – so that we are not sure exactly how far away they are, but certainly not in a separate country. When the angel of the Lord appeared to them, “the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were filled with fear.” Any time that term is used, it is accompanied by great light – whatever else it means. In this case, certainly not as bright as what Paul (Saul) encountered on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), but in a dark field in a time when there were no distant city lights, it would be quite substantial and unnerving.

Gabriel making the Annunciation to the Virgin ...

Gabriel making the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. Painting by El Greco, 1575 (Museo del Prado, Madrid). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Calming them, the angel told them of the good news of the birth in the city of David of “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” and old them how they would know him when they went to see. The sudden appearance with the angel of “a multitude of the heavenly host”  raises the question of what makes up a heavenly host. Generally, a “host” is a military term, where the collective group is associated with fighting a battle or guarding something. In the case of the Lord, they are associated as being at His side, praising Him, and ready to do his bidding (Psalm 103:21, Daniel 7:10). And verse 15 gives us the answer. After they finished praising the Lord Jesus, the verse tells us that the “angels” went away into heaven. Since only one angel had appeared before the heavenly host came, that tells us what sort of multitude they were.

When they arrived and saw Jesus, verse 17 says they “made known” what had been told to them by the angel, which created an understandable stir. But Mary, it said, treasured all of these things in her heart – no doubt recalling the visit from the angel Gabriel before the conception. And then on the eighth day, he was circumcised according to the Law of Moses and given the name Jesus, just as Gabriel had told her. And just like that, the will of God that He made known to the serpent way back in Genesis 3:15 was brought to fruition:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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Gabriel Appears To Mary

Gabriel making the Annunciation to the Virgin ...

Gabriel making the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. Painting by El Greco, 1575 (Museo del Prado, Madrid). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Verse 26 of Luke chapter one begins ” in the sixth month,” which refers to the time following Elizabeth’s conception of John the Baptist. Note that the description of Nazareth’s location by Luke is further evidence of his intended Gentile audience. Any Jew would know very well where Nazareth was. The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a virgin named Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph, of the house of David. Betrothal in those days was nothing like the sense in which we imagine such a term. Rather, it was a negotiated agreement that was binding upon both the bride and the groom to the extent that they were legally and religiously married in all respects – except that of living together.

Gabriel told Mary, who did not “know a man,”  that she would bear a son by the power of the Holy Spirit and the “Most High” (verse 35), and name Him Jesus. This  reference to God as “Most High” (Elyon, used seven times in Luke) is seen first in Genesis 14:18-20 when Abram met Melchizedek, and was used quite often thereafter – seen often in the Psalms, Numbers 24:16, and Daniel 3:26, and 4:24,34. He also told her some very important things about Jesus: 1) that He will be called holy – the Son of God, 2) that God will give Him the throne of David, his father, from which He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and 3) that of His kingdom there shall be no end. Before he left, Gabriel told Mary of the pregnancy of her elderly relative, Elizabeth, which was his offering of a sign for Mary’s encouragement in what he had told her.

John the baptist Church in Ein Karem Jerusalem...

John the baptist Church in Ein Karem Jerusalem, Israel, 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mary went to see her relative, and when she arrived, we are told that Elizabeth’s baby (who was filled with the holy Spirit) leaped for joy in her womb at the presence of the Lord – providing yet another affirmation for the Christian of the sanctity of life in the womb. Mary stayed with her for about three months before returning home. Verses 47-55 contain Mary’s song – a psalm of praise to God that has come to be known at the “Magnificat” – a title which comes from the Latin translation.

Side note: In verse 39, when Mary went to see Elizabeth, the text says that she went “into the hill country to a town in Judah.” We do not really know where in that area it actually was, but traditional belief widely held is that the home of John the Baptist was in Ein Karem, about 5 miles west of Jerusalem. There is an interesting article with some pictures of the area in this feature at Ferrell’s Travel Blog.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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The Conception of John the Baptist

Nowhere in the Bible but the Gospel of Luke are we told about the events leading to the birth of John the Baptist. Though certainly not predicted for as long of a time as the birth of the Lord Jesus Himself, it had been anticipated for hundreds of years – at the very least, since the time of Malachi (Malachi 4:5), which most scholars place at about the middle of the 5th century B.C.

English: Herod the Great Suomi: Herodes Suuri

English: Herod the Great Suomi: Herodes Suuri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Verse 5 opens with “in the days of Herod, king of Judea…” There tends to be some confusion as to which Herod the Bible refers to between the gospels and the Book of Acts. This one is the one known as “Herod the Great.” He was the vassal king of Judea by virtue of his relationship with the Roman government and the favor he found with Octavius. He was born in Edom (Greek “Idumaea”) and thus a descendant of Esau. His family converted to Judaism, and he referred to himself as a Jew. The main portion of his reign was from 37 B.C. to his death in 4 B.C.

John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, is said in the same verse to be “of the division of Abijah.” The number of priests was extremely large, and they were organized into 24 divisions. Each division would have one of their priests serve in the temple twice per year – the question of who served being decided by casting lots. But none was allowed to burn incense more than once in their lifetime – some never at all. This was Zechariah’s once in a lifetime event – in more ways than one.

Imagine Zechariah’s excitement as he contained himself with the expected dignity and reverence when he entered the temple and approached the altar of incense to perform the task that he had likely been anticipating for a great length of time. But as he did so, there appeared an angel of the Lord, and his excited happiness was immediately changed to overwhelming fright! But the angel uttered words to put him at ease that would change not only his mood (once more), but his life – forever! Though he knew his wife, Elizabeth, to be barren, he was told that they would have a child, and that his name would be John.

Zechariah & the angel

Zechariah & the angel (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

John, the angel told Zechariah, would not drink wine or strong drink, and would be great before the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” turning many people back to God and make them ready for “the Lord.”  Significant also in verse 15, the angel said that “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” For us as Christians, this is just one of a few passages that should forever put to rest any question of whether an unborn baby is a person!

Zechariah’s doubt, when he asked how he could know this would really happen, knowing that Elizabeth was beyond child-bearing years, was met with a rebuke that would cause him to be mute until the child was born. The angel, who we learn here was named Gabriel, informed him that he stands in the presence of the Lord, and was sent by God to give Zechariah this good news. This is only the second of the angels we read about in scripture that is mentioned by name (the other being Michael, in Daniel 10:21 and Jude 1:1-9. Revelation 8:2 tells of seven such archangels that stand before God.

Zechariah finishes his service in silence, making signs to those who were inquisitive at his delay inside the temple for so long, and then went home. Elizabeth, we are told in verse 24, did conceive in the following days, and kept herself hidden from public view for 5 months.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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Acts 12 – Peter Is Rescued

Verse one begins with “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.”  The words “about that time” obviously refer to a time period in which the events of the end of chapter 11 occurred.  Secular history accurately dates the death of this Herod (Herod Agrippa I – grandson of “Herod the Great”) in 44 A.D.  Verse 2 continues in the KJV with:

“And he killed James the brother of John with the sword…”

When Jesus was transfigured on a mountain. Moses and Elijah join him. Jesus had brought his closest 3 disciples with him – Peter, James and John –Matthew 17: 1-13; Mark 9: 1-13; Luke 9: 28-36.

Burton Coffman wrote concerning this verse: Only seven words in the Greek, translated by eleven in English, recount the martyrdom of the first apostle; and such restraint by the sacred historian shows how different are the words of inspiration from those of ordinary writers.

Indeed.  If one was simply writing a story rather than the word of God, one would certainly have more to say about the death of one of Jesus’ “inner circle,” James the son of Zebedee, than these few words.  The rest of the verse states that “…when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also.”  The Jewish religious leaders – certainly much of the Sanhedrin – would have been pleased to have gotten rid of one the twelve men who were so instrumental in proclaiming that Jesus was the risen Lord.  This was during the Feast of Unleavened Bread; and Herod intended to bring Peter out after Passover and undoubtedly do the same with him as he had done with John’s brother.

But on the night before Herod was to bring him out, an angel of the Lord came to Peter as he slept between two soldiers, made the chains fall off of him, led him past two guards and compelled the iron gate to open on its own, as they walked through.  And with that, the angel left.  Up to this point, Peter had been thinking that he was having another vision.  But in verse 11, he realizes that the Lord had sent his angel to rescue him “from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

Although sixteen soldiers guarded Peter when he was thrown into prison, an angel came personally to rescue Peter (Acts 12).

Peter heads to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark (verse 12).  The consensus of scholars is that this may be because of the personal attachment Peter had for John Mark, who would write the gospel of Mark (of which writing there are convincing arguments that Peter stood behind).  At any rate, many of the church are gathered there.  At first, none of them believed the servant girl that it was Peter at the gate.  When they opened it, he cautioned them to be silent, then told them how he had been freed from prison.  As he left, he told them to tell James (this James would be the Lord’s brother) and the brothers what had happened.

The first Herod, called The Great, wanted to honor his patron, Augustus Caesar, with a fine harbor. He spent twelve years building a magnificent harbor and naming it Caesarea. Ruins of the Roman theater, built before the time of Jesus.

When it was discovered that Peter was gone, Herod had the sentries executed.  The he went to Caesarea, where verses 20-23 describe the events of his death, relating that an angel of the Lord struck him down and in the end “he was eaten by worms.”  Some suggest that both he and his grandfather died of Fournier’s gangrene, but the Scripture gives no other information that would verify this.  His vanity and acceptance of the praise proclaiming him to be a god led to his death.  Another purpose was served though, as he had already proved to be a dangerous enemy to the apostles.

Side note: In this article by Todd Bolen of BiblePlaces.com, the author makes some very convincing arguments for the actual location of Herod Agrippa, when he was struck down, to have been at the city amphitheater, rather than the theater itself (where the historian Josephus  wrote that it occurred).  He also makes some interesting observations about the ruler and his predecessor’s and the practice of the emperor being honored as a god.  Very interesting reading.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Judges 13 – The Birth of Samson

The wife of Manoah (woman in a veil and wimple)

The wife of Manoah (woman in a veil and wimple) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter 13 brings us to the most famous of the judges, Samson.  Unfortunately, his story is one of the most misunderstood by most people.  His power came from God, and it left him because of his lack of self-control and unfaithfulness to the Lord, as we will see in the next three chapters.  The angel of the Lord appeared first to Samson’s childless mother, and told her that she would have a son. and would be a Nazirite.  Her husband Manoah showed his faithfulness first when instead of questioning what she said, prayed to God, wanting to have the opportunity to be instructed how to raise the child.  When asked his name, the angel of the Lord replied that it was too wonderful for man to comprehend (verse 18).

Any man or woman could take a vow to become a Nazirite as told in Numbers 6.  It was a vow to set ones self apart for God, and it came with certain restrictions, including no razor to the hair, no fruit from a vine, and no contact with the dead (corpses).  After Samson was born, verses 24-25 relate that as the young man grew, the spirit of the Lord began to “stir him.”  The Philistines were in control of the Israelites, and God would use Samson to stir the people as well.  Clearly, they needed it.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Robert
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Genesis 24 – Isaac and Rebekah

Moving on to Genesis 24, Sarah has died and Abraham is very old.  He makes his oldest servant swear an oath not to let his son take a wife from the land of Canaan, where they still live (the Canaanites are already known to be wicked).  He tells him instead to go back to “his country” and bring a wife back for Isaac. Abraham has not been back to “his country” (in northern Mesopotamia) in nearly 100 years, but that is where his relatives are still, and where he wants Isaac’s wife to come from.  The servant is instructed not to take Isaac back there, though.  God had promised the land where he is now to Abraham’s offspring, and that is where he wants him to stay.

Before the servant left, Abraham had told him that an angel of the Lord will be with him as he chooses the wife.  Take note of the prayer and the faith of Abraham’s servant in vv 11-14, and in vv 26-27.  Abraham obviously had a profound influence on him. We may not know how the way that we live in the presence of others impacts them, but we can be sure they usually take note.  We should strive to act as though the salvation of others depends on how we conduct our lives.

Rebekah (the same one from the genealogies we read in chapter 22) is the woman who will return to Canaan to become Isaac’s wife.  Her brother, Laban, appears to be in charge or perhaps just assisting an ill? father, Bethuel (vv 30-33, and 53).  He will still  play a part in the story of these people later.  Read verse 67 again, and think about the attitude today of most people toward love and marriage. What can we learn from this?

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

___________________

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert