Friday, December 23, 2016

26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet--Zion

Nativity Alphabet by Krista Hamrick

Krista Hamrick’s beautiful original art print, Nativity Alphabet, has so inspired me. Each of the 26 words in the Nativity Alphabet are so intricately painted, almost like stained glass windows. My heart has been drawn to write 26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet.




While pondering the word, “Zion,” I was inspired by Hillsong United’s anointed Zion Acoustic Sessions while studying Psalm 9:11


ERV: Sing praises to the Lord, who sits as King in Zion. Tell the nations about the great things he has done.

Expanded: Sing praises to the Lord who is king on Mount [dwells on] Zion [the location of the Temple]. Tell the nations [among the peoples] what he has done.

NCV: Sing praises to the Lord who is king on Mount Zion. Tell the nations what he has done.

Benson Commentary: "As the special residence of his glory is in heaven, so the special residence of his grace is in his church, of which Zion was a type: there he meets his people with his promises and graces, and there he expects they should meet him with their praises and services. Declare among the people his doings—Not only among the Israelites, but to the heathen nations, that they may also be brought to the knowledge and worship of the true God. Sing praises to the Lord—As the result of these views of his character, and at the remembrance of his doings. The heart of the psalmist is full of exultation and joy at the remembrance of the divine interposition, and he naturally breaks out into these strong expressions, calling on others to rejoice also. Which dwelleth in Zion—As Zion was the place where at this time the tabernacle was set up, and the worship of God was celebrated, it is spoken of as his dwelling-place. Declare among the people his doings—Make general and wide proclamation of what he has done; that is, make him known abroad, in his true character, that others may be brought also to put their trust in him, and to Praise him."

Pastor John Gill writes: “The psalmist having determined in the strength of grace to praise the Lord himself, and show forth all his marvelous works, and given his reasons for it, both with respect to himself in particular, and with respect to the people of God in general, here calls upon others to engage in the same work; the Lord is not only to be praised, which may be done by celebrating the perfections of his nature, and the works of his hands; by giving him thanks for mercies temporal and spiritual, and by living to his glory; but his praises are to be sung by a modulation of the voice in musical notes, as the word used signifies; where the same word is used of the singing of birds; and this is to be done by the saints jointly, in concert together, as Paul and Silas in prison sang the praises of God; and there is great reason why they should join together in this work, since they share the blessings of divine grace in common together. Jehovah, to whom praises are to be sung, is described as the inhabitant of Zion, the ark and tabernacle being there before the temple was built, which were symbols of the divine Presence. God by his essence and power is everywhere, he fills heaven and earth, and cannot be contained in either; his glorious presence is in heaven; his gracious presence is in his church and among his people; where they dwell he dwells, and where he dwells they dwell: hence the church is called by the same name as the Lord is here, the inhabitant of Zion; and this description of him points out the place where his praises are to be sung, in Zion; who are to sing them, the members of the church; and the reason why, because the Lord dwells in Zion; and is there a refuge for his people, and protects them.” 



What does it mean to trust the Lord, the King of Zion? It means looking to Him as the source of our security and putting our faith in the grace, love, power, and protection of God when the inevitable pressures of life come. It means knowing as the psalmist did that as the mountains surround and protect Zion, the city of Jerusalem, God himself surrounds and shields His people. When we trust the Lord, we don’t have to focus on the wicked and what they are doing or might do to us. We don’t have to rehash our own woes. Even though there are problems the size of mountains facing us, we can cry out to the Lord who created the mountains and is able to move them. As we sing praises to Him, and focus on Him and His truth, He will encourage our hearts and help us to tell the nations about the great things He has done!

Lord Jesus, King of Zion, I put my trust in You today. You are my security and protection, my shield, my fortress, and my hiding place, and I sing praises to You. When enemies surround me and troubles multiply, help me to remember that You are ever faithful and that You surround and protect me, both now and forever. Thank You for the free gift of salvation, that we are justified on the basis of Your finished work on the Cross. Thank You that, right now, we are under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness of Christ. Because we have placed our trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, we are redeemed by Your precious blood. The threat of failure, judgment, and condemnation has been removed. Knowing that God’s love for us and approval of us will never be determined by our performance is the most encouraging promise to which we cling—what great things You have done! In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

 

Look Up—meditate on Psalm 9:11 …pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In
—as you meditate on Psalm 9:11 …pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on Psalm 9:11…pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.


* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – 
Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ


Weekly LinkUps…

 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet--Yawn

Nativity Alphabet by Krista Hamrick



Krista Hamrick's beautiful original art print, Nativity Alphabet, has so inspired me. Each of the 26 words in the Nativity Alphabet are so intricately painted, almost like stained glass windows. My heart has been drawn to write 26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet.





While pondering the word, “Yawn,” I imagined that precious Face of the infant Christ, Yahweh, the Son of God, yawning just prior to dozing off to sleep on that first Christmas night. I was inspired by listening to Phil Wickham’s anointed hymn, At Your Name (Yahweh Yahweh) while studying Exodus 3:13,15


HCSB: Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them: The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what should I tell them?” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.”

LEB:  But Moses said to God, “Look, if I go to the Israelites and I say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is his name?’ then what shall I say to them?” And God said again to Moses, “So you must say to the Israelites, ‘Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and this is my remembrance from generation to generation.’”

NOG: Then Moses replied to Elohim, “Suppose I go to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The Elohim of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What should I tell them?” Again Elohim said to Moses, “This is what you must say to the people of Israel: Yahweh Elohim of your ancestors, the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever. This is my title throughout every generation.”

WEB:
Moses said to God, “Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and tell them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you;’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What should I tell them?” God said moreover to Moses, “You shall tell the children of Israel this, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations.”

Pastor Ken Hemphill writes: “Most Bible scholars would agree that the name Yahweh, or Jehovah, as it is sometimes translated, would be the proper name of God. The other names, including the compound names, provide further revelation of His character and His activity. JEHOVAH (YHWH…or JHVH) Note that the 4 letters (tetra means 4) of YHWH are often referred to as the Tetragrammaton. Vowels were added to the Tetragrammaton (literally "four lettered name"…Prior to 6th century Hebrew has no vowels—added to text AD 600-700) yielding the Name...YAHWEH ... which is most commonly transliterated (transcribed from one alphabet into corresponding letters of another alphabet) as...JEHOVAH. Various scholars have suggested different translations of the name of God used in this passage. The name is from the imperfect stem of the Hebrew verb "to be." The imperfect tense denotes an action that started in the past, continues in the present, but is not yet complete. Many Bible scholars follow the simple translation that we have in our text, "I am who I am." One of our Old Testament scholars at Southwestern translates it this way: "I AM who I have always been." I like this translation because it affirms that the God who spoke from the burning bush is the same God who worked through the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It also implies His ability and desire to work through Moses in the present and the future. However we translate this name, we can be assured that it affirms God's self-existence and His eternality.”

Pastor Alexander Maclaren writes in his Expositions of Holy Scripture: “The fire that burns and does not burn out, which has no tendency to destruction in its very energy, and is not consumed by its own activity, is surely a symbol of the One Being, whose being derives its law and its source from itself, who only can say—“I AM THAT I AM”—the law of His nature, the foundation of His being, the only conditions of His existence being, as it were, enclosed within the limits of His own nature. He says, “I AM THAT I AM.” All other creatures are links; this is the staple from which they all hang. All other being is derived, and therefore limited and changeful; this being is underived, absolute, self-dependent, and therefore unalterable forevermore. Because we live, we die. In living, the process is going on of which death is the end. But God lives forevermore, a flame that does not burn out; therefore His resources are inexhaustible, His power unwearied. He needs no rest for recuperation of wasted energy. His gifts diminish not the store which He has to bestow. He gives and is none the poorer. He works and is never weary. He operates unspent; He loves and He loves forever. And through the ages, the fire burns on, unconsumed and undecayed.”

Pastor John Piper writes: “The most common and the most important name for God in the Old Testament is a name that in our English versions never even gets translated. Whenever you see the word LORD in all capital letters, you know that this name is behind it. In Hebrew the name had four letters — YHWH — and may have been pronounced something like Yahweh. The Jews came to regard this word with such reverence that they would never take it upon their lips, lest they inadvertently take the name in vain. So whenever they came to this name in their reading, they pronounced the word “adonai” which means “my lord.” The English versions have basically followed the same pattern. They translate the proper name Yahweh with the word LORD in all caps. This approach is not a very satisfactory thing to do, because the English word LORD does not communicate to our ears a proper name like John or Michael or Noël. But Yahweh is God’s proper name in Hebrew. The importance of it can be seen in the sheer frequency of its use. It occurs 6,828 times in the Old Testament. That’s more than three times as often as the simple word for “God” (Elohim – 2,600; El – 238). What this fact shows is that God aims to be known not as a generic deity, but as a specific Person with a name that carries his unique character and mission. (Note: The word “Jehovah” originated from an attempt to pronounce the consonants YHWH with the vowels from the word adonai. In the oldest Hebrew texts there are no vowels. So it is easy to see how this would happen since whenever YHWH occurred in the text, the word adonai was pronounced by the reverent Jew.) The most important text in all the Bible for understanding the meaning of the name Yahweh is Exodus 3:13,15. God has just commanded Moses to go to Egypt and to bring his people Israel out of captivity. Moses says to God, “‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’ God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “The LORD (that is, Yahweh!), the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.’” Two facts persuade me that this text provides an interpretation of the name Yahweh. One is that the name Yahweh and the name I AM are built out of the same Hebrew word (hayah). The other is that Yahweh seems to be used here interchangeably with I AM. “I AM has sent me to you” (v. 14). “Yahweh . . . has sent me to you” (v. 15). I think it would be safe to say that God’s purpose in this meeting with Moses is to reveal, as he never had before (Exodus 6:2), the meaning of his personal name, Yahweh. The key is in the phrase, I AM, and especially in the phrase, I AM WHO I AM. So here is where we ought to spend a lot of time meditating. What does it mean when you ask your God, Who are you? and he answers, I AM WHO I AM? I hope you can begin to feel how important these words are. There aren’t any words more important than these. Any words that you think might be are important only because these words are true. The more you ponder them, the more awesome they become.”


Our world has seen more change from 1900 to the present than in all history recorded before 1900, and things continue to accelerate rapidly. As time speeds by, measured not just in minutes or seconds but in nanoseconds (billionths of a second), everything changes. Technology changes so fast in our twenty-first-century world that we can barely keep up with the upgrades on our computers. Our bodies undergo the inevitable aging process, and we witness constant upheaval in the nations of the world. Material things change and deteriorate. The changes in the world do not change God one bit or thwart His plans. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever, and His love extends to the next generation and the next. Our security can’t be found in any of the things in this ever-changing world. Instead, our security is in God and His promises.


Unchanging Lord Jesus, Yahweh, I praise You and worship You for Your love and faithfulness that extend from one generation to the next. Thank You that although our circumstances may change and the things around us pass away, You remain the same forever. Help me to find my security in Your eternal sameness. Through all generations, even before You made the earth, You have been our dwelling place. You are God, without beginning or end. I am thankful that wherever I go, I don’t have to feel insecure or anxious because You are there! Thank You for Your faithfulness and loving-kindness that follows me all the days of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


Look Up—meditate on Exodus 3:13,15…pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In
—as you meditate on Exodus 3:13,15 …pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on Exodus 3:13,15…pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.


* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – 
Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ


Weekly LinkUps…

Sunday, December 18, 2016

26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet--Excelsis

Nativity Alphabet by Krista Hamrick

Krista Hamrick’s beautiful original art print, Nativity Alphabet, has so inspired me. Each of the 26 words in the Nativity Alphabet are so intricately painted, almost like stained glass windows. My heart has been drawn to write 26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet.


While pondering the word, "Excelsis," I was so captivated and inspired by this hauntingly beautiful and anointed song by Christy Nockels, Wrap This One Up... Oh, the call of a shepherd in a field nearby, to tend and to carry his flocks by night. They were not ordinary sheep; they were set apart, born to be Passover lambs. And when a spotless male was born, he was held on the manger floor. Swaddled up just to keep him calm until his time, and the shepherd sang: Wrap this one up. He is a lamb without blemish. Wrap this one up. He'll make his way to the temple. Born for sacrifice, he'll join the others and pay the price. Wrap this one up. Wrap this one up.

Oh, the call of a mother in a town nearby to tend and to carry on this holy night. Not an ordinary Child, but the Son of God, Breathed by the Holy Spirit. And when the Baby King was born, He was held on the manger floor. As she swaddled Him up, she knew His time would come as she sang: Wrap this one up. He is the One that we adore. Wrap this one up. He'll wear the crown forevermore. He's come for you and me. He'll finally set us free. Wrap this one up. Wrap this one up. He's the One. Gloria! Gloria! Gloria! Sing Gloria! In excelsis Deo! Gloria! Gloria! Gloria! Sing Gloria! In excelsis Deo!

Oh, the call of a Savior on a hill nearby. All alone, He would carry the weight of all mankind. Becoming the curse for us, He gave His life for He knew that His time had come. Wrap this one up. He is the lamb without blemish. Wrap this one up. He paid the price, and it is finished. That death would have no sting, He rose in victory! Oh, hallelujah to the King! Gloria! Gloria! Gloria! Sing Gloria! In excelsis Deo! Gloria! Gloria! Gloria! Sing Gloria! In excelsis Deo! In excelsis Deo! In excelsis Deo!


Gloria in excelsis Deo is Latin for, Glory to God in the highest from Luke 2:9-14 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'"

Pastor John MacArthur states: “This is where all heaven breaks loose. They can only be restrained for so long. The birth of this child having been laid in the feed trough in anonymity at first and then this monumental announcement to the angels that even involves a whole heavenly host of angels praising God and affirming peace on earth toward men with whom God is pleased. The angel says, "A Savior who is Christ the Lord."  There is no question, there's no need for clarification as to who is this child because the angel tells us in very explicit terms."

First, the child is Savior. That's the great affirmation of the angel, "I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people."  And what is the good news that produces universal joy?  "A Savior has been born." The word "savior" implies that we need to be saved from something. “Saved” is a synonym for “rescued.” It's a synonym for “delivered.” And it implies that there's some kind of threatening condition. There's some kind of dangerous condition, some kind of desperate condition, some kind of deadly condition from which we need to be rescued. The universal problem from which the Lord sent a Savior to deliver us is the problem of sin and guilt. It's to rescue us from the consequence of our sin. You have broken the law of God and you are on your way to eternal hell and you need to be rescued from sin. 

His title is given here, Christ the Lord. That is to be understood that He is both Christ and Lord.  He is both Christos and kurios. He is both Christ and the Lord. When it says this is the Savior who is Christ the Lord, you'll notice and it will be true every time it's used in the Bible to speak of Jesus Christ or of God, it's a capital "L." To say that this child is Lord, listen very carefully, is to say that this child is God.  Lord is intended to imply in the Greek all that is implied by the Hebrew word Yahweh, the Tetragrammaton, the Hebrew name for God.  To say that Jesus is Lord is to say that Jesus is God first and foremost. And let me say this as clearly and simply as I can and you need to remember this, the most fundamental and basic confession of Christianity is this, Jesus is Lord. Without that you don't have Christianity. It means to say that Jesus is God and all that that implies.  And if you're God, that implies sovereignty and authority. The selection of the word kurios here for Lord; that's a very important selection.”

Lord (kurios from kuros = might or power) Kurios means supreme power with authority with legitimacy.  It is a word that expresses an authority that is valid, lawful, and legitimate.  And kurios is used here. Jesus is legitimately, validly Lord. He is Lord lawfully. He is Lord legally. He is Lord by virtue of nature who He is. So the root idea of kurios is legitimate sovereignty, legitimate authority. The ultimate legitimate authority in the universe is God. The writers of the New Testament use kurios all the time.  It has become, in the Greek language, of course, the name for God. So when it says Jesus is Lord, when it says you must confess Jesus as Lord, you are confessing Him as God with all that that implies. That implies authority. That implies sovereignty.”

"And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'" We've come to the pinnacle. We've come to the transcendent high point. We've come to the highest point of thought and action, the highest truth of all truths. What is it? It's the glory of God. What you see here is the highest thing that can occur in the universe, the created universe. The highest thing that can occur in the created universe is that God is glorified by His creatures. And that's exactly what you see the angels doing.  This is the purpose of the good news is to save sinners so they can join angels in giving glory to God. The ultimate is always to glorify God. The highest, transcendent pinnacle of all thought and action, the reason for everything, is to glorify God. "Suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host." Multitude refers to a large group. They were saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among men with whom He's pleased."

What were the angels praising God for? They were praising God because Jesus was born.  They were praising God because the Savior had come. They were praising God for the Savior who is Christ the Lord.  You see, they knew what was going on. They knew Jesus as the second member of the Trinity. They knew Christ before the incarnation.  They had been associated with Christ in heaven before the incarnation.  They knew of His glory, they knew of His riches, they knew of His majesty.  They were also aware of the Fall of man. They had been informed also that God had provided a way of salvation for man. They knew that prophecies had been made that a Messiah would come, a Savior would come, a sacrifice would be made.  They understood the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, to some degree. They understood that all those animals had to be offered and they couldn't take away sin but they would picture One who would come and die and would.”

The angel had given the report to Joseph, "You shall call His name Jesus for He'll save His people from their sins."  They knew what was going on.  They knew the work of saving man.  They knew that there would come a Savior who, while maintaining perfect righteousness and holiness, would also bear sin. They knew that God would not spare His own Son but give Him up for sinners. They knew that the Son, though rich, would become poor for the sake of undeserving sinners. They knew that He would vicariously bear their curse and take their punishment. They knew that the Holy Spirit would condescend to convict sinners and bring them to salvation, regenerate them and then take up residence in that sinner's heart. They understood the birth of Christ. They understood that He would enter into a condition of poverty, that He would become poor so that sinners could become rich. They understood this and they were praising God because they were seeing God's grace on display. They were seeing God's mercy. They were seeing the salvation plan come to its glorious fruition. They were thanking God for His indescribable gift. They were looking into the things that Peter says angels desire to look into but cannot fully comprehend because they can't experience grace and mercy and forgiveness because holy angels are sinless. That's what's going to go on in heaven forever and ever and ever.  Both the angels and redeemed souls in glorified bodies of men and women are going to spend forever and ever and ever and ever glorifying God in heaven, glorifying God in the highest, which is heaven, because He brought peace to the lowest, which is earth, and granted it to those in whom He chose to delight.  He gets all the credit. The purpose of everything then is that God will be glorified and forever and ever and ever we will glorify Him.  We could sum it up by saying the purpose of salvation was to bring glory to God in heaven from angels and from saints and we will see that and participate in it when we get there.”


We may not have been there with the shepherds that night when the angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest," but today we can join David in Psalm 29:1-2 as he proclaims, Give honor to the Lord, you angels; give honor to the Lord for his glory and strength. Give honor to the Lord for the glory of his name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. In this psalm, he calls on the angels and all God’s people to join him in ascribing honor and glory to the Lord for his strength, his glory, and his holiness. “Give God the credit for the great things he does! Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness!” he urges us. David knew that the greatest thing in all our lives is to worship God. That’s what we were created to do. When we give honor to God, he blesses us and lights our path. When we look at his glory and holiness, he gives us his perspective, and everything else pales in comparison. But when our busyness pushes worship aside and our focus gets off of God and onto the things of this world or ourselves, we lose our way. Darkness and emptiness begin to envelope us. Do you want the joy of knowing God and experiencing his love? Take a few minutes to read Psalm 29 aloud and join with the angels in heaven as we worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness!

Lord Jesus, forgive me for getting wrapped up in myself and my tasks and forgetting to give You credit for all You are doing and have done in my life and in the world around me. Create in me a heart of worship. This day I give honor to You and worship You for the glory of Your name, for Your amazing strength and might, for the splendor of Your holiness! I join the angels who sang on the night You were born, "Glory to God in the highest!" In Your precious name I pray, amen.

Look Up—meditate on Psalm 29:1-2  … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In
—as you meditate on Psalm 29:1-2  …pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on
 Psalm 29:1-2 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.


* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – 
Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ


Weekly LinkUps…

Saturday, December 17, 2016

26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet--Wise Men

Nativity Alphabet by Krista Hamick

Krista Hamrick’s beautiful original art print, Nativity Alphabet, has so inspired me. Each of the 26 words in the Nativity Alphabet are so intricately painted, almost like stained glass windows. My heart has been drawn to write 26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet.


Krista Hamrick’s beautiful original art print, Nativity Alphabet, has so inspired me. Each of the 26 words in the Nativity Alphabet are so intricately painted, almost like stained glass windows. My heart has been drawn to write 26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet.

While pondering the words, “Wise Men,” I was captivated and inspired by a hauntingly beautiful new song by Jon & Valerie Guerra, Lord, Remind MeWhen children play on Christmas day and snow is flung, When I feel I haven't had a friend since I was young, And I'm feeling tired of myself and everyone, Lord remind me, Lord remind me, that the shepherds heard the angels break the silence in the field, that the wise men found a baby and they could not help but kneel, that the One who heard our weeping became a child in manger sleeping, Lord remind me, ‘cause it's Christmas and I want to remember…

 
Pastor John MacArthur states: “Actually, the only thing we know about these wise men is some history and what is said in Matthew, which is very limited, it says, “There came wise men from the East.”  That’s it. We don’t know their names; we don’t know anything from that. But as we put the pieces together, historically, and we do have some very fascinating history. Some of it from the Old Testament, books such as Daniel where the wise men appear in several different texts, other Bible books as well as the writings of Herodotus and other historians. We believe they were members of an Eastern priestly group, descendant of a tribe of people originally associated with the Medes. So they are from a very ancient and long-lived people were these wise men.  And by the way, the words wise men, it says, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king behold there came magi.”  The Greek is magos, magoi, translated, magi. The magi, or wise men, were a priestly line, a priestly tribe of people from among the Medes, this very ancient and large people. They were very skilled in astronomy and astrology. But the magi originally were basically a pagan, priestly tribe of people from the Medes and the Persians and there are many historical sources to validate this. They became interested in astronomy and astrology and the study of the stars. Now, what’s interesting about this is that during the time of the Babylonian Empire these magi were dwelling in the area of Babylon. They were there during the Babylonian time and the Medo-Persian Empire as well. Now while they were there during the Babylonian Empire, they were very heavily influenced by the Jews. You remember that one of the things that Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon did was take Judah into captivity. Well, here in Babylon were existing these magi, and they were very high-ranking officials. By that time they had ascended to a high place in the Babylonian Empire because of their amazing intuition, wisdom, knowledge, and astrology, they had risen to a place of prominence. They encountered all these Jewish people that had been brought to captivity, including one very specific Jew by the name of Daniel, who was elevated in the Babylonian Empire. Consequently, they were very familiar or made familiar in the dispersion of the Jews in Babylon with Jewish prophesy regarding the Messiah. They were made aware of what was really on the Jewish prophetic plan for this One who was to come."

According to the ancient historian, Herodotus, the Magi were a tribe of people within a larger people called the Medes. They were a hereditary priesthood tribe. In other words, they were like the Levites in Israel. The Magi were really the key people in the government of the East, centered in the Fertile Crescent, the area around Babylon and Medo-Persia. Now they always appear with tremendous political power. They rose up in Babylonian government, Medo-Persian government, to be the advisors to the royalty of the East. That’s where they got the name the Wise Men. They were the ones that were consulted about the various things that the kings and the rulers and the nobles and the princes wanted to know. In Daniel 2:10 it says, “The Chaldeans answered before the king and said, ‘There is not a man on the earth that can reveal the king’s matter: therefore, there is no king, lord, nor ruler that asked such things of any Magi or astrologer or Chaldean.’”  And it’s very likely that those are all synonyms. So here we find the word Magi. Now when Daniel came along and all these Magi who were in the high, high-ranking place of advisors to the king couldn’t give any answers, Daniel could, something amazing happened.  Daniel 5:11, “There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods, and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods was found in him” – talking about Daniel now – “Whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king I say, thy father made master of the Magi.” Daniel was so adept at telling the dreams of the king that the king made Daniel the master of the Magi, so that Daniel was literally in Babylon the chief over this whole priestly group. Now, that puts Daniel in the tremendously unique position of being able to dispense to these Magi all of his information about the Old Testament, which without a shadow of a doubt is precisely what Daniel did.”

We know that Daniel was a man of God. We know that Daniel was a man totally devoted to worship and expression of his faith because he wound up in a lion’s den because of it. There’s no question in my mind but that Daniel and the other godly remnant in the Diaspora, the dispersion, shared their knowledge of the Old Testament and their copies of the Scripture with these people in Babylon. As history moved on from here, the Magi began to depart from a singular commitment to their historic religion, and they began to find their way into different things. I believe in my heart that some, like these Magi that show up at the birth of Christ, were really true seekers of the true God. In Esther 1:13 we have the indication that the royal bench of judges was all chosen from the Magi, they were powerful. History tells us they knew astronomy, they were very good in mathematics, they knew natural history, they were good at agriculture and architecture. Now, as I mentioned earlier one of their special skills was interpreting dreams.  And when they failed to do that and Daniel moved in on top of it and became the chief, as we saw in Daniel 5:11, the setup was made by God to set the scene for Matthew chapter 2, six hundred years before Jesus was born. God was setting up the situation for a great Hebrew prophet to rule a group called the Magi, so that one day when a baby was born in Bethlehem, some of those Magi would find their way to the house where the baby was. That’s planning history. Somehow and by some marvelous way God has managed to maintain some true seeking Magi.”

Politically speaking, Rome was scared of the Eastern Empire. By the time we get to the time of Christ, the Magi are still in tremendous power in the east. Some of them used their power, their position, their skills, with a great amount of human wisdom. Some of the Magi were honest and they exalted the craft of wisdom and political advice. When they arrived in Jerusalem Herod knew what was going on. They were kingmakers and when they wandered around town saying, “Where is this new king of the Jews?” Herod got panicky. When suddenly these Persian kingmakers appeared in Jerusalem, no doubt traveling in full force with all their oriental pomp. They used to wear conical hats with points on the top and big deals clear down to the bottom of their chin, and they rode Persian steeds not camels.  And when they came in they didn’t come alone. The estimates of history are they came with Persian cavalry.  When they came charging into the city of Jerusalem and Herod peeked out his little palace window, he flipped. These are powerful men, and to make it worse his army was out of the country on a mission. The Bible says Herod was troubled. The word in the Greek is he was agitated like your washing machine, he was shaking.”
 

“Well, what were the wise men thinking?” Maybe, they had looked at it politically.  Maybe they thought, “Oh, man, here comes the king.” I think that that’s probably true, but additionally I think they looked at it spiritually.  Because when they got to that little room in Bethlehem, the Bible says they worshiped Him. They saw more than just a king. I believe they saw the Messiah they had heard about from the days of Daniel. I think we have God-fearing, seeking gentiles. I’m sure they were thinking, “Maybe this is the Savior, the Savior who is called the Anointed One,” which is a term describing a king. “And maybe He will not only be the Savior, the Messiah, but maybe He will be the one who will gather all this people of the east together and go against the oppression of Rome.” Isn’t it exciting to you how God controls history?  Not because it was just a bunch of historical facts, but because you are seeing God at work. History is His story. Long ago He picked out a man named Daniel, put him in a place to influence some men who would arrive in perfect timing. You say, “Well, why does Matthew present this?  Why?”  Listen.  Matthew, all the way through his gospel is trying to tell the world that Jesus Christ is what?  King.  And just to make sure nobody misses it he has the most famous kingmakers in the world come and bow down at His feet.  Do you see?  It’s all a part of Matthew’s strategy.  He’s the king.  And if Israel isn’t going to acknowledge it, then God is going to drag a bunch of people from Persia to acknowledge it.  He’s king."

 
As we have learned from this history of the wise men in the Nativity Alphabet, in a very crucial time in Daniel 2:20, 22-23, Daniel didn’t lean on his own understanding and knowledge. Neither did he panic when the king ordered that Daniel along with all the king’s Magi or Wise Men would be killed because they had failed to interpret his dream. Instead, Daniel asked the king for more time, went home, and urged his three friends to join him in prayer. Together they asked God to show them his mercy by revealing the secret of the king’s dream. Daniel’s prayer of praise and thanksgiving is a reminder to us that God reveals “deep and mysterious things”—things that are unseeable and unknowable and unsearchable to the natural mind—to those who seek him and ask for his wisdom instead of trying to figure things out on their own. What area of your life do you feel most baffled about? Where do you need wisdom the most—in your parenting, your business, in relationships or ministry? Praise God today for being the source of all wisdom, light, and strength and the One who can reveal to you just what you need.

 
Heavenly Father, I praise Your Holy Name. You are the God who “has all wisdom and power,” the One who guides world events, You are always at work. Long ago You picked out a man named Daniel, put him in a place to influence some men who would arrive in perfect timing. You give “wisdom to the wise,” and you know what is “hidden in darkness” and all mysteries. I pray for Your wisdom and strength in each situation I face today. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


Look Up—meditate on Daniel 2:20, 22-23 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In
—as you meditate on Daniel 2:20, 22-23 …pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on
 Daniel 2:20, 22-23 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.


* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – 
Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ


Weekly LinkUps…

Friday, December 16, 2016

26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet--Victory

Nativity Alphabet by Krista Hamrick

Krista Hamrick’s beautiful original art print, Nativity Alphabet, has so inspired me. Each of the 26 words in the Nativity Alphabet are so intricately painted, almost like stained glass windows. My heart has been drawn to write 26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet.




While pondering the wonderful way artist Krista Hamrick illustrated the word, “Victory,” with a red heart in the center of the Cross of Christ, I was inspired by Travis Cottrell’s rendition of Victory in Jesus I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory, how He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me; I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood's atoning, Then I repented of my sins and won the victory. O victory in Jesus, My Savior, forever. He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood; He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him, He plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood.

 
The great English Bible teacher Captain Reginald Wallis writes: “The triumphant Christian does not fight for victory; he celebrates a victory already won.”

Navigators Pastor Lee Brase writes: “Allow God to help you recall the finished work of Christ and your future hope of final victory.”

The victory that has overcome the world is our faith - "This is the conquering power that has conquered the world: our faith." (
I John 5:4b NET); "And this is the victory that has defeated the world: our faith." (Common English Bible).

Victory (nike) means overcoming of an enemy or antagonist. Nike means "victory, or the power that confers victory"…victory, then as abstract for concrete—the means for winning a victory.

Webster: Conquest; the defeat of an enemy in battle, or of an antagonist in contest; a gaining of the superiority in war or combat. Victory supposes the power of an enemy or an antagonist to prove inferior to that of the victor. Victory however depends not always on superior skill or valor; it is often gained by the fault or mistake of the vanquished. The advantage or superiority gained over spiritual enemies, over passions and appetites, or over temptations, or in any struggle or competition.

Nike or nikaō denotes victory over hostile powers. The real victor is God, who has power over his own enemies and those of his people and of the righteous. The people’s victory does not primarily depend upon the strength of their soldiers but upon whether God has delivered the enemy into the hands of the Israelite armies.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Self-denial is required, but true Christians have a principle which carries them above all hindrances. Though the conflict often is sharp, and the regenerate may be cast down, yet he will rise up and renew his combat with resolution. But all, except believers in Christ, are enslaved in some respect or other, to the customs, opinions, or interests of the world. Faith is the cause of victory, the means, the instrument, the spiritual armor by which we overcome. In and by faith we cleave to Christ, in contempt of, and in opposition to the world. Faith sanctifies the heart, and purifies it from those sensual lusts by which the world obtains sway and dominion over souls. It has the indwelling Spirit of grace, which is greater than he who dwells in the world. The real Christian overcomes the world by faith; he sees, in and by the life and conduct of the Lord Jesus on earth, that this world is to be renounced and overcome. He cannot be satisfied with this world, but looks beyond it, and is still tending, striving, and pressing toward heaven. We must all, after Christ's example, overcome the world, or it will overcome us to our ruin.


Krista Hamrick chose to illustrate the word, “Victory,” with a red heart in the center of the Cross of Christ, in her Nativity Alphabet art print. This powerful translation of Habakkuk 3:17-19 Amplified Bible speaks of how we can lean in to this Victory in Jesus…Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, [though] the product of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the [victorious] God of my salvation! The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]! Habakkuk saw injustice and violence, misery, and sin all around him. When God laid out the big picture and told Habakkuk of the victory to come, the prophet was so humbled and awed by the Lord’s greatness that something even more important did change: Habakkuk’s heart. He didn’t stop asking for the Lord’s help, but now he asked with faith and a heart of worship: No matter how bad things get, “I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.” Ask God to build that kind of heart in you…no matter what.

Heavenly Father, as Habakkuk wrote, I have “heard all about You, and I am filled with awe by the amazing things You have done.” In our time of deep need, begin again to help us as You did in years gone by. Show us Your power to save us! No matter what happens, whether I see prayers answered or victories, may my heart rejoice in You. I will find my joy in You, for You are my strength! In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Look Up—meditate on Habakkuk 3:17-19 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In
—as you meditate on
Habakkuk 3:17-19 …pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on
 Habakkuk 3:17-19 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.


* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – 
Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ


Weekly LinkUps…

 

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