…To All People

“And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people…” Luke 2:10 (KJB)

I find it somewhat odd that the scholars, the priest, the religionist of the day in Jerusalem missed the obvious signs. The signs that the Messiah was on the way. I will not get into what those signs were. Others saw them from further away.

The shepherds in the field were not the first. They are the first mentioned in our text, but in the totality of the text of the gospel it includes the wise men from the east (Matthew 2:1-12). The wise men would have began most likely weeks before when they saw the “star”, and they traveled together and found the new born King, not in a manger, but a house.

In the birth of Jesus the LORD of Creation is declaring that His Son’s birth is a gift to all who will come to Him and believe in the gift of His grace. The grace that will be displayed by His death on the cross, His burial not only proving He died, but that He also carried all our sin, condemnation, guilt, and shame away, and then He arose leaving all of that behind and He eternally lives.  Because He lives all from every nation, every tongue, and every tribe of people who believe in Him have eternal life.

“Fear not” the angel said. The great good tidings to all the earth. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s Word Today 082112

“In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, ‘the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God.  They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, ‘Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.’  My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.  All that found them have devoured them: and their adversaries said, ‘We offend not,’ because they have sinned against the LORD, the habitation of justice, even the LORD, the hope of their fathers.  Remove out of the midst of Babylon, and go forth out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as the he goats before the flocks.” Jeremiah 50:4-8 (KJV)

For many years I have heard people talk about the “Ten lost tribes of Israel”.  That seems; with the above verses in mind; that there is no such thing.  God has the people of the Northern kingdom of Israel, and the Southern kingdom of Judah as one.  It would seem to me that they have been one since they returned from the Babylonian captivity.

-T.A.

Day 67 – Words of Warning and Promise

Some people will never listen to a “negative” comment.  They always want the positive stuff.  Let me ask this question;  What good is a battery with only a positive pole?   There is no battery with only a positive pole.  They all; from automotive – cars and trucks – to batteries for electronic gadgets, fire alarms, etc.; they all have a negative and positive pole.

My reading for the 67th day of my 90 day journey was Zechariah 10 – Malachi 4.  Yes!  I only read nine chapters today.  There will still be time for catch up reading.  Besides, I did not want to read only the first five chapters of the New Testament and Matthew to begin the NT.

The reading was mostly positive, yet there are some words of warning, yeah!  Negative stuff.  How good can the positive be, if there is no negative.  How powerful can the electric be without the negative.  I have an electric fence around my yard/lawn to keep cattle out.  I can assure you that without the ground wire (the negative), there would be no jolt on that wire.  You get my point.

One of the first negatives I will point out is,

“Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! The sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.”  Zechariah 11:17 (KJV)

The shepherd or pastor of whom the prophet is speaking is one who leads his people or followers in idol worship rather than the worship of the true God.  To me this has a positive message for the follower of God and Christ.  It tells me that there is coming a day when all idol worship, and worshippers will cease to be and that all will worship the one true God.

There is also coming a day when all Israel will look upon Jesus who was judged guilty by the angry religious leaders of that day; and He was without guilt.  His only guilt was that He was guilty of being holy, righteous, without blemish or spot; He claimed to be and is the Son of God.

“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”  12:10

All will turn out just as the LORD has said.  Just as He has promised.  His Word will be fulfilled word for word.  Not one word shall fail.

Malachi is a prophet who sees the people who are “bored” with worship; yes, the worship of the LORD.  He confronts them with it.  More negativity is coming.  Do we not need to hear the negative to get a positive outcome?  you can close your ears all you want to negativity, but that does not help you or any others who may be actually perishing in their sin, and decrepit attitudes.

“A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a Father, where is Mine honour? and if I be a Master, where is My fear?’ saith the LORD of hosts unto you, ‘O priests, that despise My name. And ye say, ‘Wherein have we despised Thy name?’  Ye offer polluted bread upon Mine altar; and ye say, ‘Wherein have we polluted Thee? In that ye say, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’   And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person?’ saith the LORD of hosts.”  Malachi 1:6-8 (KJV)

The people of Judah were going through the motions of worshipping God, but were not living the worship.  They had in affect departed from the worship of YHWH, and “wearied the LORD with your words” (2:17).  The prophecy of Malachi ends with a word of hope and promise of one coming to prepare the way;

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” 4:5-6

The Lord GOD calls all people to worship Him.  He is holy, righteous, and just.  He will not hold the sinner guiltless.  However, when the sinner receives His offering for sin we put on the righteousness of His own dear Son who bled and died for our sins on the cross, was buried – carrying away the sin, guilt and condemnation; and He bodily arose from the grave justifying forever all those who will believe on Him.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Hope Without Hope; Clouds Without Water

“These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” Jude 12-13 (NKJV).

In the same verses that we looked at previously we find that these apostates of which Jude writes were likened to “clouds without water, carried about by the winds”. In droughted areas where they are dependent on the rains and much of it, waterless clouds are sometimes very disappointing. In this day of bank failures, job losses, and many an economic worry we need the truth and hope that only Jesus Christ gives. “Our hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

In the Midwest United States and the Southern States, we are all dependent upon rainfall. Most of the United States is dependent upon rainfall, as a matter of fact. The only place that might not be is some parts of California where they use irrigation year round to grow their crops.

These “clouds without water” offer hope, but give nothing. The apostates teaching heresy offered much spiritual growth, but there was none. They told lies, and their lives were deceptions. They are full of themselves and have nothing of God. The true shepherd of God, and shepherd of the people do not “shun to declare the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27); were Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders. Some of the “Pastors” of what has been called “Mega-churches”, and some small churches are ‘clouds without water’, because they fail to expound and reveal the dangers of sin, and the glory of Christ power over sin.

They, the apostates, seek a following for themselves in the name of Christ, but do not preach what Jesus preached. What did Jesus preach? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17). If you are not preaching what Jesus preached and taught, then you preach contrary to Him. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

If there is any preacher reading this right now who has been preaching those easy, encouraging, non condemning things, and leaving out repentance – turning from sin to Jesus Christ – then you aren’t preaching what Jesus preached. You are those “clouds without water”. You need to repent. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

May God bless you today by your turning from your sins, believing Jesus, preaching Jesus crucified, buried, resurrected, and coming again.

-Tim A. Blankenship

People, And The Incarnation Of Christ

Luke 2:25-38; Matthew 2:1-12, 16-18

PURPOSE –  In looking at the six people/personalities we see in this message the  question should arise, “Which personality do I fit?”, and lead us to a close walk with our personal Lord, Savior, and God.

OUTLINE –

I.  HEROD – AN EXAMPLE OF “ROYALTY” WHO HATED KING JESUS (v. Matthew 2:16-18).

II.  THE WISE MEN [MAGI] – AN EXAMPLE OF THOSE WHO SEEK HIM FROM FAR AWAY (Matthew 2:1-12).

III.  SHEPHERDS – AN EXAMPLE OF THE LOWLY WHO ARE CALLED TO WORSHIP HIM (Luke 2:8-9).

IV.  PRIESTS AND SCRIBES – AN EXAMPLE OF THE RELIGIOUS, INDIFFFERENT CROWD (Matthew 2:4).

V.  ANNA – THOSE FAITHFUL IN PRAYER DESPITE THE TIMES AND TRIBULATIONS THEY EXPERIENCE (Luke 2:36-38).

VI.  SIMEON – THOSE WHO ARE FAITHFUL IN EXPECTATION OF THE LORD’S COMING (Luke 2:25-35).

In looking at this list there are more we could include probably, but some, such as the “Inn keeper” who had no room, we have no details of him.  Joseph and Mary we have already looked at in the last message.  We could also think about the soldiers who murdered all the infant males in Bethlehem at the orders of king Herod.  You can tell by those I have mentioned here that there are more than we often think about.  The six listed above are the ones I want us to consider in this message.

HEROD – AN EXAMPLE OF “ROYALTY” WHO HATED KING JESUS (v. Matthew 2:16-18).  Herod was a jealous king.  One of whom has recorded history of being jealous of his sons and having them slaughtered so he could keep his “throne”.

When he hears from the “Magi” that there is a “King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2) he calls for an urgent and diligent search where this King would be born.  He calls for the Priests and scribes.  They inform Herod that it is in Bethlehem, quoting Micah 5:2.

Herod asks the “wise men” to let him know when this child is found so that “I may worship Him to” (Matthew 2:8).  In his heart he was still that jealous envious “king” who wanted no one to take his throne.  Herod was actually a puppet king of Rome, and he wanted nothing to do with the worship of a “King of the Jews”  he was the king of the Jews.  His intent was to destroy Him, and it mattered not what the cost.

THE WISE MEN [MAGI] – AN EXAMPLE OF THOSE WHO SEEK HIM FROM FAR AWAY (Matthew 2:1-12).  These men who came, with no number mentioned as to how many there were, were Gentiles from some land away from Israel.  We are not told where they are from.  This is, however, evidence that God is sending His Son to and for the salvation of the whole world.

The following is from the MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE;

“wise men from the East.  The number of wise men is not given.  The traditional notion that there were 3 stems from the number of gifts they brought.  These were not kings, but Magi, magicians or astrologers–possibly Zoroastrian wise men from Persia whose knowledge of Hebrew Scriptures could be traced back to the time of Daniel (cf. Dan. 5:11).”

From THE MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE, note on Matthew 2:1, p. 1394, NKJV.

It almost appears in reading these verses that the “wise men” were the only ones interested in the star.  Not everyone is an star gazer, but God used this “Star” or whatever it was to capture the attention of three Gentile men, and they came and worshipped the King (Matthew 2:11).

Some one has said, “Wise men still seek Him”, and of that it is sure.  Though God may not in our day be using a star to guide men to Himself; He still uses circumstances, at times, and in some cultures He uses dreams that will cause the recipient of the dream to search out a messenger of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  God uses other people that may cause someone in another culture and another religion to search for the Jesus of the Bible.

Some may wonder well, “What do you do with that verse that says, ‘no one seeks for God’? and my answer to that is, They would not had God not been drawing them to Himself.

The “wise men” followed the direction of the Hebrew Scripture and they have been forever remembered by our Lord and God.  Those same Hebrew Scriptures are  in the Christian Bible.

SHEPHERDS – AN EXAMPLE OF THE LOWLY WHO ARE CALLED TO WORSHIP HIM (Luke 2:8-9).  The shepherds of Israel, the lowliest of society were the first to be notified of the birth of Jesus; and they were notified by the angels of heaven.  Oh, what glory, joy and rejoicing they brought to the lowly that night.

Shepherds were told where to find the “Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).   He was to be found in the manger where He lay.  Is there any better place to find a new born Lamb than in a manger?

In the world when a king is going to make an appearance the papers, the news stations make it clear and plain that the king is going to come, but invitations to see the king, visit with the king, dine with the king only go to the elite, and politically, and financially powerful ones.  This Kings appearace was revealed to the lowly of society.

In this we see that God cares for the people of all social levels; and I would add that if God tilts the scales in any favor it would probably be toward the lowly.

Are you hurting from financial troubles, loss of your job, illness, major health problems, disease, troubled marriage, divorce, death of a loved one? Then, this message is for you.  More importantly; Jesus is calling you to Himself.

PRIESTS AND SCRIBES – AN EXAMPLE OF THE RELIGIOUS, INDIFFFERENT CROWD (Matthew 2:4).  Here were the people, the men, who would have been the most familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures.  They were the religious ones.  They would have known the Scriptures which foretold the coming of their long awaited Messiah/King.  It just seems that they were unmoved by this request from the Magi.  They seem as though they don’t even care.

There are  many religious leaders who are engulfed in their business of ministry.  They are “Professional” at what they do.  They are always dressed in the proper attire (Please note this is not a slam against dressing decently and proper), speak professionally in their words, have their religion wrapped up in liturgy, lithargic learning that usually has nothing to do with Biblical understanding, but cultural, societal, and ecumenical unity.  While all they time paying no attention to the signs of the times in which we live that loudly proclaim that the Savior is near.

ANNA – THOSE FAITHFUL IN PRAYER DESPITE THE TIMES AND TRIBULATIONS THEY EXPERIENCE (Luke 2:36-38).  Anna was a young woman when she became a widow after being married for only 7 years.  She spent her time in the temple praying.  She had been a widow for 84 years, and had spent day and night in the temple praying.

We are not told why her young husband had died, and it is not necessary for us to know.  What we know is about Anna and her faithfulness to the Lord.  Her prayers must have been somewhat similar to that of Zachariah, which was partly for the coming of a deliverer for the nation of Israel, and they may have been seeking for the whole world as well.

After spending all those years praying for the appearing of this child, this Son of God, she recognizes Him, and gives thanks to God; and “spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”  (v. 38).

These things surrounding the birth of our Lord shout loudly to all who will hear, and to those who refuse to hear, that Jesus is God’s Christ, God’s Son, and is the only means of salvation in the world.

SIMEON – THOSE WHO ARE FAITHFUL IN EXPECTATION OF THE LORD’S COMING (Luke 2:25-35).  Simeon is an interesting character, and is often overlooked, even more is said of him than Anna.

We need to remember that this prophecy, along with the words of and about Anna took place on the eighth day after our Lord’s birth.  There was ceremony, circumcision, and worship conducted at the temple on this wonderful day.

Simeon was a man to whom the Lord had revealed that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ (v. 26).  He was a man getting up into years.  We are told that he was a just and devout man.  He was a man who feared God, and had been declared by God to be just, ie. made right with God.  Just as Anna is faithful in prayer, so is Simeon faithful in expectations of the Lord’s coming to deliver His people.

Simeon speaks to Joseph and Mary and all those present.  Let’s see what things he spoke:

1. “let me depart in peace”;
2. Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation;
3. Prepared before the face of all  people;
4. A light to the Gentiles;
5. The glory of the people of Israel.

The things he spoke to Mary and Joseph:

1. The child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel;
2. A sign which shall be spoken against, as a sword shall pierce your soul
3. That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

This “sign” that is spoken against is evidently the cross on which he would die.  That was the piercing of her soul, and at this cross the hearts of many are revealed.  It was the wicked and vileness of men’s hearts that nailed Him on that cross.  Yet, on that cross the atonement for sins was given through the precious, sinless, blood of the Lamb of God.

As Simeon was faithful to carry on the work of the Lord in his life we too are called to be faithful unto the coming of our Lord for His Bride and later in His glory.

Simeon loved the appearing of our Lord.  The professing Christian who has a larger desire to make more money, acquire more things, see more family, etc, than desiring the return of the Lord should be looking at their hearts true condition.  One evidence of the true Christian experience is expectation of our Lord’s return.

Have a heart like the “Wise men” who seek Him, and worship Him; like the shepherds who saw and heard the call and worshipped Him; and a heart like that of Anna who continued in fasting and prayer night and day until that day she could bless Jesus, and be a blessing; and finally have a heart like Simeon who long awaited the coming of the King of the Jews, their Messiah, Deliverer, and Savior.  Our Lord Jesus is coming returning soon for the Church; and later in all His glory, and the whole world will see Him.

Call on His name for salvation, before it is forever too late.

-Tim A. Blankenship

A Wonderful, Joyous Birth

Luke 2:1-20

Purpose:  To see and understand the impact of personal salvation come down to mankind and the world through the birth of Jesus Christ.

OUTLINE FOR LUKE 2:1-20 –

I.  THESE EVENTS WERE IN THE HANDS OF OUR SOVEREIGN GOD (vv. 1-5; Micah 5:2).

II.  THE BIRTH OF JESUS WAS IN THE RIGHT TIME, RIGHT PLACE AND INVOLVED THE RIGHT PEOPLE (vv. 6-7;  Galations 4:4).

III.  THROUGH THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST THE LOWLY ARE EXALTED, AND THE HAUGHTY MADE LOW (vv. 8-16; 1:52).

IV.  THE BIRTH OF JESUS IS SPREAD AROUND BROADLY, AND BY THE LOWLY (vv. 17-18),

V.  THE JOY OF THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST (vv. 19-20).

There are many times we do not understand why things happen or are happening as they do.  One of those times could be the present day events in the United States and the world; economically, politically, religiously, medically, or in our families.  Though things seem to be messed up, and wickedness seems out of control we, as Christians, can rest assured that God has it all in His hands, and is working it all out for our good and His glory.  There is no better example of that than the times before the birth of Jesus, the birth of Jesus, and up until now.

God has the good of the world in His hands and heart.  We can trust Him.  The world should trust Him.  He has provided salvation for all who will believe Him, and trust their eternal lives to His care and love.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but would have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

Let us never think that the people previous to the birth of Jesus believed they had it all figured out; they didn’t.  They did however trust that the Lord was working, and accomplishing His purposes and will.  We have seen men like Zachariah hearing the message of God from the angel Gabriel concerning the birth of  John, and his reception of that message, along with Elisabeth his wife.  Then, we have seen the virgin Mary hearing the message of the birth of her Son, and without a human father; yet she believed.  Even during that 430 years of darkness God was working, moving in the hearts of men, but in silence; waiting for that right time, place, and for the right people to fulfill His Word.

WE CAN TRUST THAT THE EVENTS ARE IN THE HANDS OF OUR SOVEREIGN GOD (vv. 1-5).  None of us like taxes or to take part in census taking.  Both of these may have been the purpose of Caesar’s decree; but the real decree came from God Himself, to fulfill His Word that His Son would be born in Bethlehem, the city of David’s heritage (1 Samuel 16:1-4ff).  The Old Testament passage for that is,

“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2 (KJV)

We must understand that while God created us with what has been called “Free will”, that this does not thwart the will of God, nor hinder His will in any way, but works with His sovereignty fulfilling His will.

If the god the Open Theists believe in is what we have, then we are all without hope.  The god of the Open Theists does not know the future any better than you or I; does not direct the affairs of mankind; has no control over what happens tomorrow.

Look at these events with Joseph and Mary.  They receive a decree from the ruler of Rome to go to the place of their heritage, which is Bethlehem, and the child that is within the womb of Mary is that Son of Promise who is to be born in Bethlehem, fulfilling the Scriptures.  Only God who reigns on high could accomplish such a thing.  As Mary was told by Gabriel,  “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” 1:37 (KJV)

ONLY A SOVEREIGN GOD COULD HAVE HIS SON BORN IN THE RIGHT PLACE, AT THE RIGHT TIME, AND TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE (vv. 6-7).  Paul the apostle wrote,

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law…” Galations 4:4 (KJV)

The right place, of course, was the city of David’s heritage and birth; the right time was when there was darkness in the earth, so that the Light might be more clearly seen, heard and received; the right people was a young couple who were awaiting the coming of their Messiah (Though we are not told this specifically, it does seem quite likely, and they received this gift by grace.)  And they were faithful to serving the Lord.

I have no idea what the likelihood is of these things all just happening without divine direction, but I am sure the numbers would be astronomical.  I do not understand why some people find it so hard to believe that it takes the hands of the Devine to direct the affairs of the Devine, and the birth of His Son is certainly a Devine work.

You can try and explain some things only so many ways, but the obvious, until it becomes so very foolish to make circles around the obvious.  In doing so you miss the obvious.

It was the right time and place for the time of our Lord’s life and death.  His crucifixion some 33 years later, and in His own country, by the words of His own people, and by the hands of Gentiles, could not have happened any other time.

It is fascinating to think that the Ark of the covenant had been taken away at least 430 years before the birth of Jesus.  The Ark represented the presence of God, and His glory; now the presence and glory of God came into their midst in Person.  It was the right time, in the right place with the right woman, that the glory of God was revealed to fallen mankind, hated, despised, and laid on the cross by the people who so needed Him.

BY THE SOEREIGN HAND OF GOD, THROUGH THE BIRTH OF HIS SON THE LOWLY ARE EXALTED AND THE HAUGHTY MADE LOW(vv.  8-16; 1:52).  Shepherds were the most lowly and despised of Jewish people; yet these were the first to be notified of the birth of their King and Lord.

We are not told how many shepherds there were, but just know that there was more than one because of the plural usage of “shepherds”.  Whether there was two, or more makes little difference; the more the merrier I would say.  That they were despised by many people only shows that God has in His mind to demonstrate His love to the lonely, the outcasts, and the helpless and hurting.

However many there was we see shepherds “In the field watching their flocks at night”.  If it would have been Winter it does not seem likely that they would be in the field, but in their mangers, caves, keeping their sheep warm, and protected.  At night they needed to good shepherds guarding the sheep from wolves, and thieves.

As they were guarding their sheep an great, awe-inspiring event happened, unlike anything which they had ever experienced.  The angel of the Lord appeared to them, making an announcement of the birth of of the Savior, in the city of David.  Along with the announcement came instructions on where to find him.  There was also a “heavenly host” which joined with the angel, “praising God” and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

The shepherds heard the angels and found the manger where our Lord lay following His birth.  They left the fields “with haste – in a hurry.  Probably even to the point of leaving their flocks behind.  The joy of seeing the new born King, Son of God was more weighty,  personal, costly than the sheep in their folds.  The long awaited King was born.

There is no mention of any king who was told.  We know the history of Herod and his hatred for even his own sons, and killing them out of jealousy, and fear of their taking the throne from him.  Herod was finally brought down.  Those who know Jesus and follow Him are exalted.

THE SOVEREIGN BIRTH OF JESUS HAS BEEN SPREAD ABROAD BY THOSE WHO WERE WITNESSES OF HIS BIRTH (vv. 17-18).  It does seem like an almost automatic response to tell of something you know that has happened which has excited you and others who were with you.   We are not told who they told or how long they spent in telling, just that they scattered the news abroad.

This was such wonderful news that others “wondered” about it.  The following is John Gill’s commentary on part of verse 18:

“…wondered at those things that were told them by the shepherds: for though they expected the Messiah, and that he would be born at Bethlehem, yet they did not imagine that he would be born of such mean parents, and appear in such mean circumstances, and in so contemptible a place; and that shepherds, and not the princes of Israel, should have the first notice of it; and yet the account which these shepherd, who were plain hearted men, and could never be thought to invent such a story, and spread it, and impose on men, without any interest in it, was very surprising; so that they knew not what to say to it, neither to deny, nor believe it; accordingly, the Persic version renders the whole thus, “and whoever heard, wondering, stuck at it”; hesitated about it, and yet astonished at the particulars of it; just as Christ’s hearers were in Luk 4:22 who wondered at his ministry, and the manner of it, and yet objected the meanness of his parentage and education.”

From the e-Sword Commentaries.

THE JOY OF THE SOVEREIGN BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST (vv. 19-20).  Mary was enamored by the things she heard and seen concerning the events of her Son’s birth.  Shepherds coming in from the fields, to see this new born child; a “star” shining over the stable where He lay (Matthew 2:1-2ff); and many other events which include the many fulfillments of the prophetic word of God.

The shepherds after going to see Jesus the new born King returned to their sheepfolds to shepherd their flocks, but with a whole new outlook on things.  They were singing, rejoicing in all the things they had seen and heard.  Though we are not told that they did; I kind believe the shepherds sat down and visited with Mary and Joseph, then Mary told her story, that of Zachariah and Elisabeth, her story of virgin conception, the virgin birth.  Joseph probably told them of how he had about divorced Mary (secretly), except that an angel revealed to Him the unique specialty of this birth and child that would be born (Matthew 1:18-21ff).

Joy, peace, love, gentleness, patience, kindness, self-control, meekness and faith are fruits which follow those who are witnesses, empowered by the presence of this King (Galations 5:22-24).  This King was born as Savior to take away our sins by paying the price that was ours to pay.

Without the birth of this King there would be no Savior, no salvation, no Peace or Joy.  That is why the shepherds returned praising and glorifying God.

Anyone putting their faith and trust in Jesus the King will live and reign with Him forever.  All sins forgiven; the price fully paid by the death of Jesus on the cross, carrying the guilt and shame of sin away in His burial, then His rising for our justification – being made right with God for all eternity, and living for Him, waiting for His return.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Married to a Backslider

Married To A Backslider

 

There has been many a father and mother who pleaded and pleaded with their children to return home, after they have ran away from home. Some children, after reaching the mid to late teen years, begin feeling they can run their lives without someone “telling me what to do”, and so they run away. It is sometimes by the deceptive words of a “friend” or an older individual persuades them to do so. These are heart breaking for every loving parent.

Questions like; “Where did I go wrong?”, “What could we have done different?”, “Why is this happening now?”, and feelings of being a failure with your family hit hard. Since I have never experienced the sorrow of a runaway child, I really don’t know all the questions asked, or the pain that it causes. I have known a family or two where the runaway scenario has happened.

You could call their leaving home, “Backsliding”. That is what has happened in the life of the divided nations of Israel and Judah. Israel left home and began worshipping golden calves in Dan and Bethel, set up by their first king Jereboam. The MIRRIAM/WEBSTER DICTIONARY defines “Backslide” as “To lapse morally or in religious practice”. That, in my opinion, is a gross understatement.

Before we go on let’s hear the Word of the LORD from the prophet Jeremiah:

“Return, O backsliding children,’ says the LORD; ‘for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Jeremiah 3:14-15 (NKJV).

What does God mean by “Backsliding”? It is the act of treachery, turning away from God, His Word, and sliding on a slippery slope to one’s lowest point. God is not pleased when His people turn their backs on Him and then, offer Him sacrifices which do not come from a heart of devotion and praise. Sacrifices offered with a backslidden heart are a stench in heaven and the nostrils of God.

Why people say that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament is beyond me. The means of salvation is by grace through faith. The Old Testament people were saved looking forward to the cross of Christ; shown in all the blood sacrifices offered with a clean motive, and the people from the cross forward are saved by looking back to the cross of Christ by faith.

This word from God through his prophet Jeremiah is given to His backslidden people. It is not to the heathen, unredeemed, but to the people of Israel and Judah. This says to us that God’s people do go astray. We do get out of the will of God, but God will spare no grace to pursue us, pleading with us to get us back into our personal walk with Him; in more complete agreement with Him; at peace with Him. The backslidden child of God is not at peace with God. The backslider is not even at peace with himself/herself. They want their own way, and they are going to have their way. Even if that way leads to the “pigpen”. Remember the Prodigal son of Luke 15:11-32. The father’s love seen for a rebellious son who had wanted to do things his way returns to the loving father, after realizing his own desperate plight. The writer of Proverbs says of the backslider, “The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, but a good man will be satisfied from above.” Proverbs 14:14 (NKJV).

It doesn’t matter what the child of God has done you have a loving Father who is pleading for you to return to His fellowship and enjoy the peace, comfort, love and joy that is found only in the presence and power of God. Don’t take this wrongly. This is not an invitation to do evil and wrong. We have been freed from such arrogance, and pride. Because we drag the carcass (Isaiah 5:18 ) of the flesh around with us, we have not laid it down yet, it is still a battle we face everyday.

For too long the nations had had shepherds who were “devouring their sheep”, and not teaching them the truth, or leading them in the true ways of God. They were self seeking. Read Jeremiah 23:1-2ff. The responsibility of the shepherd of people is an awesome responsibility. Those who preach, teach, and minister the word of God, are especially on notice to take great care in what they say, teach and preach. It seems quite clear that the priest, and other shepherds of Israel had gravely failed to lead in the way of God and His righteousness, grace and justification.

God now says to Israel and Judah, “I will give you shepherds according to My heart…” These will not be after the heart of man, but the heart of God. The true shepherd of God needs to know the heart of God. We learn that through His Word, prayer, and service for His glory.

The Christian of our day (2008 ) is living in times of great opportunity. Let us be devoted, committed, and crucified with Christ; being so will not allow us to backslide away from where God desires us to be, and that is with Him. Let us walk in His Spirit, His Word, and do things using His methods. Whether some want to admit it or not there are some methods that are being used to “Reach people for Christ” which are not after God’s heart. You know them. They give more glory to the program, the actors, the performers, the stunts, the numbers of people who are drawn to these events, and even to the numbers of “decisions”, than they do to the Lord for whom they are presumably there.

O, backsliding children God pleads for your return, “Return, O backsliding children…”

-Tim A. Blankenship