Matthew’s Christmas Story

As a way of review of last week’s post I want to remind us of what we learned the last week. Mark’s gospel has no Christmas Story narrative. He opens with John the Baptist and his message of the birth of Christ to come. John quoted both Isaiah and Malachi as saying prepare the way because the Messiah was coming. One was saying prepare yourselves to be a vessel through which God’s love could enter into human history. And the other was saying be prepared for a major event that was coming. John’s preaching of a baptism of repentance for forgiveness and that One was coming that was mightier than him carried that same meaning that the two prophets were emphasizing.

Now let’s start with our study of the Christmas Story from Matthew’s perspective. Matthew was also known as Levi and was one of the 12 Apostles as we see in Matthew 10:3. Matthew was a Jew and collected taxes from his own people for the Roman government. Although he was despised by loyal Jews his gospel was originally written for these same Jews.

Matthew presents Christ with three different title; Son of David, Son of Abraham, and Christ the King. Only in Matthew’s account does Jesus speak of “His glorious throne”. Only in the gospel of Mark is Jerusalem referred to as “the holy city”. Matthew uses the word “kingdom” more than 50 times in his gospel. The expression “kingdom of heaven” is found nowhere else in the New Testament but appears thirty or so times in Matthew’s gospel.

The Christmas Story according to Matthew is found in Matthew 1:1-2:18. It actually begins with a lengthy description of the Genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew 1:1-17. In this passage the ancestral tree is based on the number seven. Numbers were very important to the Jews of that day, especially the number seven. Whenever the number seven is used in the Bible it suggests completeness, wholeness, restoration and healing. Seven is the number of days for a complete week. The Sabbath was the seventh day of the week when there was rest, healing and restoration. Jesus used the number seven when questioned about how many times one should forgive another when he replied to Peter not seven but seventy times seven.

Matthew gives us a very detailed description of the genealogy beginning with Abraham and ending with Joseph the husband of Mary. But in verse 17 he describes three distinct sets of 14 generations to match three prominent eras of Jewish history. This is obviously equivalent to 6 sets of seven generations. However, in verse 18, he begins his story concerning the birth of Jesus which ushers in the seventh set of 7 generations. In other words, Jesus was the ultimate completion of the promise of the Messiah. He was the greatest and final work of God to bring wholeness and healing to a broken, bruised and conflicted world.

A Truth for Today: In His perfect timing God sent His Son into the world to begin the completion of his plan to redeem man and reconcile him to Himself. The plan that originated in the mind of God before the foundations of the world was now on its way to full and final completion.

As we continue in Matthews gospel we find a short story of the conception and birth of Jesus in Chapter 1, Verses 18-25. The Bible says in this passage that Mary became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. In other words, Mary conceived the baby who would be named Jesus, but Joseph was not the baby’s father.

Can anyone explain how this is possible? Keep in mind that Mary would go through the normal time span of carrying the baby and most likely encounter the same discomforts that any mother-to-be would expect. The real question is this. Why was it necessary for Jesus to be physically born of a woman? May I suggest that it was necessary in order for Jesus to be able to relate and empathize with all aspects of being human. However, we will spend more time on Mary when we consider the Christmas Story from the gospel of Luke.

Continuing is this passage we can take a look at Joseph’s faith and character. In this passage we can find out a great deal about Joseph and his character traits. We see in verse 19 that Joseph was a righteous man. Apparently Joseph had a good understanding of the need to act according to divine and moral law and so he attempted to stay free from guilt and sin. In other words, he obeyed God. Joseph was also a humble and unselfish man. His reaction to finding out Mary was pregnant was to seek a divorce privately in order to keep the shame and embarrassment to a minimum for Mary.

Can you imagine how he must felt when he heard that Mary was with child? How would you have reacted? Joseph was a man of tremendous faith and placed his trust in what God was doing in his life. He heeded the instructions of the angel. In this account of the birth of Jesus, Joseph is what I call a hero of the faith.

Now here the story changes directions as we look at the wise men’s visit and Herod’s evil plot. This part of our study is found in Matthew 2:1-12 and really bring’s out Herod’s ego and fear. So let’s take a closer look at this character.

Herod was a nominal Jew and the Tetrarch of Galilee. His grandfather had been governor of Idumea and his father had been procurator of Judea, all positions appointed by the Roman leader at the time. All of these were more loyal to the Roman government than to God or his people. Known as Herod the Great, he was responsible for the erecting of the temple at that time and built other buildings that added to the splendor of Jerusalem. All of this was to fuel his ego.

The visit by the wise men however brought out fear in the heart and mind of Herod. Herod’s concern was the idea that the Messiah had come and He was a king. Being a Jew, I’m sure he had knowledge of the expected arrival of the Messiah but certainly was not expecting Him during his reign.

The situation at hand was much like that of the Pharaoh of Egypt when the children of Israel were multiplying very rapidly while being held in bondage by the Egyptians. The Pharaoh feared that they would become so numerous that they could overwhelm and overpower Rome so therefore they were a threat. That’s when Pharaoh ordered that every new male child born to an Israelite woman was to be drowned in the Nile. So after determining from the wise men when the star first appeared Herod ordered all the male children under two years of age to be killed after he realized that the wise men had returned to their country without coming back through Jerusalem.

But God already had a plan for the protection for Jesus as we see in Matthew 2:13-15. Joseph had a dream in which God revealed to him Herod’s plot and had Joseph to take Mary and the baby into Egypt. They remained there until after the death of Herod. The angel appeared once again to Joseph and told him that they could leave Egypt and return to Israel. Joseph brought them to Nazareth where Jesus would grow up and become a man.

A Truth for Today: In His perfect plan God uses people to bring His plan to full and final completion. Satan’s attempts to interrupt God’s plan in hopes that his ultimate end can be changed has never been nor will ever be successful.

From this story I think we glean a couple of reflections and applications. We should approach the celebration of the birth of our Savior with the same faith and trust that Joseph did realizing that His birth began the completion of the fulfillment of God’s promise to redeem and reconcile us to himself. Matthew reminds us that Jesus is not just any man, He is the King of Kings. As we have lit the Candle of Faith on this second Sunday of the Advent we should exercise that faith to be what God desires us to be.

Note: Next week we will consider the Christmas story from Luke’s perspective. Our text will be Luke 1:1-2:20

Mark’s Christmas Story

This evening I am beginning a series that will last for the month of December. We will take a look at the Christmas story from the perspective of each of the four gospel writers and hopefully see some truths that we have not discovered before. We will follow along a path that aligns itself with the tradition of Advent and will attempt to keep on the same track of the theme for each Sunday of the Advent season. I will also be presenting this same information in our Sunday School time at church for the month and I certainly would appreciate your prayers that God will get all of the honor and glory for anything that is accomplished.

This post will be the first in the series and we are going to start in the gospel of Mark. But before we begin I would like to share something from my pastor Mark Mayfield’s message last Sunday morning which he entitled “Christmas Hidden In A Curse”. He used Genesis 3:15 as his text to point out that Christmas really began in eternity passed. Even before God spoke this world into existence, before He created Adam, and before Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden the plan for man’s reconciliation was in the mind of God. In other words, the seed of Mary which was spoken of in Genesis and who we know is Jesus Himself, would come as God Incarnate to seek and save that which was/is lost. God made a promise and He always keeps His promise.

So, with all of that said let’s take a look at Mark’s gospel and specifically at chapter 1, verses 1-8. What is really interesting about the Gospel of Mark is that it does not include a narrative about the birth of Jesus. However, the story of preparing for the event is  there. Mark begins his gospel writing at full throttle. He immediately reflects on the writings of the prophets Isaiah and Malachi declaring that there would be a messenger or forerunner of the Messiah proclaiming that Jesus was on His way. While quoting these two prophets he uses two different words for prepare which have somewhat different meanings. The first word for prepare Mark uses has a basic meaning of making oneself ready to be a vessel through which God’s love can enter into human history. The second word for prepare means get ready for a big event that is about to occur. John the Baptist was preaching those very same preparations.

By preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins he was saying prepare yourselves to be usable vessels. As he was preaching that One was coming that was mightier than him, he was saying that they are to get ready for that event. 

There is no better way to begin the Christmas season than being reminded that God keeps His promises. Is it any wonder that on the first Sunday of Advent the purple Prophecy Candle is lit and it is considered the Candle of Hope? It represents the prophets and the hope they foretold about. And His name is Jesus.

We tend to begin the season with way too much on our minds and our to-do list.Mark reminds us that we need to stop in the midst of our busy lives and prepare ourselves to be the instruments God wants to use to share the good news of the gospel. God’s plan for the reconciliation of man to Himself has always been in the mind of God and there is nothing that can prevent it from being completed.

Maybe we should eliminate some of the unnecessary activities during this time and focus on what is really important to our spiritual growth and relationship with Him. Maybe we should try new ways to be a more useful servant for His glory. Maybe we should put our total trust in His Word because we understand that He never fails to do what He said He would do.

Next week we will consider the Christmas story from Matthew’s perspective. Our text will be Matthew 1:1-2:18.

Forever Thankful

Good evening everyone. I hope each one of you enjoyed the Thanksgiving Holidays and were able to share them with the people you love. But I would also like to remind all of us that there are many folks that faced the holiday without someone they love and there are many reasons why that was. For some, there has been a recent passing of a loved one. Some are faced with theirs serving on foreign or even domestic soil protecting the freedom for us to celebrate. Some are alone because there has been an argument or a loss of trust that separates them from their loved ones. Some are in hospitals or nursing homes and have no loved ones left to enjoy the holidays with. And I’m sure there are many other reasons that i have not thought of or failed to mention. But the point is this. If we are fortunate enough to not be in any of the above situations we should be full of thanks and holding our loved ones close to our hearts.

There are so many things that we should be thankful for that it is impossible to recall all of them. However, we know that many of them are centered around our relationships with our families and even our friends. And we when stop and think about those we love we should be thankful that God has placed them in our lives.  It would be such a lonely world if we weren’t surrounded by other people. I believe God knew exactly what He was doing when He designed us to experience the feelings of what we know as love and acceptance. And we will talk some more about that later in the post.

We certainly should be thankful for the freedoms we are favored with in this country in which we live. In spite of the problems we have and the seemingly increasing presence of evil, there is no other country in the world that can be compared to the United States of America. So we should be very thankful. We also should be thankful for all the blessings we have even though we may not recognize them as that all of the time. God has provided us with jobs that allow us to provide for the needs and yes, many times the wants, that we have. He has provided many of us with good health and when we are not up to snuff, the doctors and medications that most of the time brings back up to par. And let’s not forget that He has provided us with special gifts and talents to use to be a blessing to others. That is another way He blesses us. And I could go on and on. We are so blessed!

With everything I’ve said so far I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the main thing we should be thankful for. Actually it was where I was headed the whole time and thus the title of the post. God in His infinite wisdom, His endless mercy, His matchless grace and His boundless love has blessed us with the greatest blessing of all. Even though we have inherited the sin nature that Adam brought on all mankind when he disobeyed God, God  provided the means by which we could be reconciled to Him and could again be called His child. By giving of His only begotten Son through His death on that cruel cross, our sin debt was paid and God sees us as if we never sinned. And all because we are covered by the blood of Jesus and His righteousness. Can you think of anything that we should be more thankful for than that? I certainly can’t. As a matter of fact, I am forever thankful.  How about you?

Proper Priorities

I don’t know about you but I am so glad that the mid-term elections have finally come and gone. Or almost. At the time of this writing there is still no final vote count for the senate race in Florida and it’s like deja vu. We could spend the next two or three hours talking about the whys but they really don’t matter at this point. And, in fact, it’s really not as important as many of us think it is. Many of us have let the ugly politics of today become a leading factor in determining our overall attitude and what a number it is doing on our joy and peace of mind.  And what a shame that is! We get so caught up in things that really don’t have an eternal impact on anything or anyone that we lose sight of the most important things. And that is the issue I want us to consider tonight. The issue of proper priorities.

We have previously considered major issues that we are faced with today and have come to the conclusion they are just battles being fought in the bigger war between good and evil. And of course I am referring to those things that God considers good and, on the other side, those things He makes it very clear that are evil. It is very easy for most of us to take a strong position against such things as abortion and homosexuality but it is much more difficult to really consider that we place too much emphasis on some things that really don’t matter in the long run. And I’ll be the first to admit that I am just as guilty as anyone else and sometimes I get my priorities out of whack. So I’ll use myself as an example of what I am talking about.

During the past couple of months with all the campaigning going on and especially the endless barrage of notes on the front door, flyers in the mailbox, radio and television commercials, and candidates surrounding the entrances to the high school football stadiums, I have found my attitude bottoming out to the lowest level it has been in a long time. I found myself getting angry every time I heard the words progressive, socialism, racism, and so many other terms that don’t fit my idea of what is right and acceptable. And I had convinced myself it was righteous anger so it was justifiable. I was becoming more and more bitter with those who would dare stand for those kind of ideas and was ready to unload on them if the opportunity presented itself. All of this was coming to an ugly end with some unintended results. My prayer life began to suffer, my bible study time began to decrease, my relationship with those I love began to wane, and my joy was certainly fast disappearing. And all of this just because my priorities were out-of-order.

So, what happened? Well I guess you could say, like the prodigal son, I came to my senses. Not in some incredible event but in a still, quiet moment as I was reading God’s Word and trying my best to stay focused on what I was reading. It suddenly dawned on me that my priority had become me and not Him. And not my family. And not my friends. And not my church. But me. I felt so dirty and ashamed but realized that it was the Holy Spirit doing what He does best. Convicting, convincing, and correcting. He reminded me of those very powerful words John penned in his first letter, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”, 1st John 1:9. And that is exactly what I did. I’m clean again and I’m putting the right order back to the priorities in my life. There is an old saying that “confession is good for the soul” and I can tell you first hand there is really something to that.

It so happened in my case that my obsession with the battles in the political arena were what took me down the wrong road but there are many other things in life that can do that to someone. As a matter of fact it can be anything that causes us to lose our sense of proper priorities and the results can be very much like the same as mine. It seems many times that it is very small things. But we have a way of making them much bigger than they are but the problem is still the same. The priority becomes ourselves and God, our family, our friends, our church must take a back seat to our desires. It is one of Satan’s best tricks and he knows how and when to use it. So what is yours? What do you put before Him? If we are not as close to the Lord today as we were yesterday we are heading in the wrong direction and where we end up won’t be good. As for me, I am so thankful that He is always near and ready to forgive just like we would forgive one of our own children. That’s why we call Him our Father.

 

New Issues to Consider

Last week we finished the series I had titled The Old Testament Jesus and over a four-week period we covered quite a few Old Testament accounts of HIs appearance. We saw that he appeared as the Angel of the Lord, as a man, as an angel and as the king of peace and a priest of the Most High God in the person of Melchizedek. We looked at numerous scriptures that provided some details of these appearances and I might add that many of these accounts are described by more than one writer. In other words, the proof is in God’s Word.

At this point I would like say that I have presented these accounts from a layman’s perspective and may have embellished some of the appearances as being Jesus when it is possible that it may not have been. However, nothing was presented as an attempt or with any intention of misrepresentation but to clearly show that Jesus has always been active in the lives of men long before His physical birth, His physical death, and His bodily resurrection as we find accounted for in the New Testament scriptures.

The opening words of John’s gospel tells us all we need to know about His existence. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”  John 1:1-2  and then And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. So, even before the foundations of the world, Jesus was. And now He is seated at the right hand of the Father. And He will one day return for His own to reign with Him forever more.

With all that said let’s move on to this evening’s post and a new topic. In light of this week’s events I would like to come back to the reality that this world is in a mess and it is obvious that Satan is hard at work. Several months back we did a series centered around the most prominent issues of today’s times and we took a close look at what God’s Word says about them. We considered abortion, homosexuality, and disobedience to civil and government authority and then talked about how we as Christians should react to each one of them. But as we have seen recently, there are other issues that are not necessarily new but are just now beginning to surface on a regular basis. And again, they are most assuredly evidence of the evil that is all around us.

Over the next few weeks we are going to look more closely at some issues that have begun to rapidly divide our nation and even in some cases our families. Some are obvious but some are very subtle in nature and hardly seem worth considering. However, we all know that the sins that seem so small have a way of growing into something large and unmanageable. The magnitude and the pace of change that has very negative consequences is further proof of our evil environment and a foresight of where we are headed. But God is not caught off guard and He has been warning us that these times were coming.

I appreciate each of you that faithfully reads the post each week and I certainly cherish any comments that you make. Again, most of the time I am just putting in writing what is on my mind and trying to apply what God’s Word has to say about each situation. I have enjoyed what research I’ve done and I have learned so much as I have done so. I have also been reminded over and over that God’s Word is complete, infallible, inerrant and consistent in all ways at all times for all time.

Until next week, may God richly bless each of you and your families.  

The Old Testament Jesus

I think we can all agree that we have seen proof positive where Jesus made numerous appearances on earth long before He came to earth as God’s ultimate sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. The past few weeks we have seen how the Old Testament writers recorded His appearances as the king of peace, as a priest of God Most High, as the angel of the Lord, and yes, even appearances in the likeness of a man. Each time was for a specific purpose and the appearances were numerous. It has become obvious that He chose whatever form He felt necessary to complete that purpose on each occasion. This evening we will close the series with a few more examples of His visits but where He was referred to as an angel. At this point however, I think it would behoove us to remember  that no matter what form of appearance He took, He was still God. He was. He Is. And He is to come.

One appearance of Jesus has already been presented and that is when Jacob wrestled with Him. In Genesis 32 we saw that Jacob wrestled with someone who was in the likeness of a man but Hosea records in chapter 12 of his writings that he wrestled with an angel and prevailed.  However in both recordings of the event it is revealed that it was actually the Lord himself.

The book of 2nd Samuel and the book of 1st Chronicles records the event where the Lord chastened David and the people of Israel because of disobedience. David was given three options for the punishment and he left it in the Lord’s hand. God brought a pestilence to the land that resulted in the death of 70,00 men and planned to destroy the city of Jerusalem. However, God then relented and did not destroy the city. Here Jesus was the One to carry out the destruction of the city and He is referred to as the Lord, the angel of the Lord, and as an angel.

In the book of 1st Kings, chapter 19, we find where an angel (Jesus) strengthened Elijah after he fled from Jezebel and was resting under the juniper tree. In Daniel chapter 3 we see one of the best known events of the appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament. The angel (Jesus) protected Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego after Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into the fiery furnace. In this event He is also referred to as Son of God. And of course we find in Daniel 6 where the angel (Jesus) protected Daniel when he was thrown into the lion’s den. In verse 22 the Bible says that God sent His angel and that He shut the lions mouths.

There are many other recorded events in the Old Testament where God, in the person of Jesus, appears on earth and intervenes in the lives of men. As we mentioned earlier, every time He did it was for a specific purpose, at a specific time, involving specific people, and had a specific conclusion to the matter. However, we need to realize that every one of these instances were just one more event in God’s plan to ultimately reconcile man to Himself. Just another step towards the most significant event to ever occur in the history of this world that involved another appearance of Jesus.

The last time Jesus set foot on this earth was different from all of those recorded in the Old Testament. When He came, Jesus did not just appear in the likeness of a man. He was born as any other human although conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit. He was born of a virgin woman and was a real human being. He was God Incarnate! He was all God and at the same time all man. He was a man, He was tempted in all ways as a man, He lived a sinless life as a man, He physically died, and He was buried like any other man. But there is a whole lot more to the story!

Because He lived that sinless life, He was the only One that could be the ultimate sacrifice for sin. While He was on the cross God laid all of mankind’s sin on Him. Not for one, not for some, not for many, but for all men. I’m talking every sin ever committed by every man, woman, boy, or girl who has ever been born since the creation and fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, up to this very moment in time and from this point until the end of time as man knows it. In other words, He became sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God. And when He arose on the third day He became the first of many that will be raised from death unto life both physically and spiritually speaking. Sin and death had been conquered! Because of God’s love for us, He shed His grace abroad in our hearts so that we could become His child! What a mighty God we serve!

I’m reminded of a short chorus we used to sing but don’t hear very often now. It went like this: “Thank you Lord for saving my soul. Thank you Lord for making me whole. Thank you Lord for giving to me Thy great salvation so rich and free.” Thank you Lord for reminding me once more of what you did for me!

 

The Old Testament Jesus

Last week we continued our study on Jesus of the Old Testament as we looked at some of the appearances He made on earth but at each time He was called the angel of the Lord. We saw that this is one of the terms routinely used in the Old Testament to refer to Him. And I mentioned last week there are other terms used and we will take a look at another one of them this evening.

On a number of occasions Jesus was referred to as man. The first one we will consider is found in a well-known story in Genesis 18. Abraham was sitting at the door of his tent in the heat of the day when he saw three men standing opposite him. The Bible says that when he saw them he ran from the door of his tent to meet them and bowed himself to the earth. This is the first indication that these were no ordinary men. But let’s continue with the story. Verse 3 records what Abraham said. “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please no not pass Your servant by.” he implored. He went on to offer them water to wash their feet and then bread to eat. They agreed and told him to do as he had said.

Now it is obvious that Abraham recognized one of them as Jesus by calling Him Lord and the fact that he called himself His servant indicates this was no mere man. Abraham had Sarah prepare the bread, had meat prepared by a servant, retrieved curds and milk and then gave to them to eat. As Abraham stood by while they were eating, they asked him a very directed question. Verse 9 says, “Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said “There, in the tent.”

There are a couple of things to note here. First of all, how did they know he had a wife and how did they know her name? It seems to me they knew everything about Abraham and they were there on a mission. Secondly, we find in the next few verses what the mission was. As Sarah was listening from the tent door she heard one of them speak and verse 10 records what He said. “He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.” The mission was revealed. Jesus had come to announce that the promise God gave Abraham that his descendents would be like the sands of the sea was about to begin! In other words, the Lord blessed him.

But Sarah’s reaction was one of unbelief and sarcasm as we see in verse 12. But take particular note of version 13. “And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh saying, “Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?”  Notice that the man is called Lord which we know refers to Jesus. And verse 14 reinforces that when it says, “Is there anything too difficult for the Lord” At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” So we see here that the man in this context is the Lord Jesus himself.

When we fast forward to Genesis 32 we find another story where Jesus shows up in the form of a man and blesses Jacob. Verse 24 tells us, “Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” The Bible goes on to say that the man had not prevailed so he touched Jacob’s thigh and immediately his thigh socket was dislocated. But Jacob would not let go and demanded the man bless him before he would let him go. The man then asked Jacob his name and he said “Jacob” and here is where our story ends up. In verse 28 the man responds, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” And the covenant that God had made with Abraham was passed all the way down to Jacob and the nation of Israel was born. Jacob realized he had met God face to face!

There is another occasion where Jesus appears as a man and that is when He raised up Samson for Israel. The story can be found in Judges 13 but we won’t go into detail. You can read the story for yourself and see that it is once again the presence of Jesus in the Old Testament.

We have now seen the appearance of jesus in the Old Testament on numerous occasions and in different types and forms. The first as King of Salem, Melchizedek, then in a number of instances where He is call the angel of the Lord, and as we have seen this evening, occasions where he is called a man. The fact is Jesus is seen everywhere in the Old Testament if we take the time to look for Him. He was, and is, and forever will be God just as our theme verse for this series describes.

Next week we will end the series with instances where He is just referred to as an angel. There are other terms used that we will mention so that you can look for them in the Old Testament on your own.

 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”  John 1:1-2

The Old Testament Jesus

Last week began our study on the physical and personal appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament and we saw that the first of these occurred in the person of Melchizedek who was known as the King of Salem. We won’t take the time in this post to repeat everything  we covered last week but I think it would be worth our time to be reminded that there were a number of phrases that were used to describe Melchizadec, thus reinforcing the idea that these references were really about Jesus. And as we look further into the Old Testament we find other words and phrases used to describe someone who can only be Jesus. Keep in mind that these appearances were not as God Incarnate. This didn’t occur until Jesus came in the form of a human baby as seen in the New Testament and was continuously present on earth for a period of about 33 years. However, these appearances were certainly physical and they were personal appearances of our Lord.

Tonight we will take a look at a few of these occurrences also found in the book of Genesis and discover some of the other phrases that makes reference to Jesus Himself. The first one is centered in the story in Genesis 16 of Sarai’s scheme to have a child through her maid Hagar. After Hagar conceived and was with Abram’s child things were not the same for either Hagar or Sarai. Sarai mistreated Hagar to the point that Hagar fled from the very presence of Sarai. And this is where we see Jesus come on the scene. Verses 7-8  continues the story with these words; “Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” This admission by Hagar brings about an unexpected response in verses 9-10. “Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.” Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.”” 

What we need to see here is that the phrase the angel of the Lord is another name for Jesus and where we find it in the Old Testament it is a reference to Him. We find that phrase used in Numbers 22 where the angel of the Lord warns Balaam. In Judges 2 the angel of the Lord rebukes Joshua and Israel and in Judges 6 the angel of the Lord fights for Gideon and Israel. There are a number of other times in the Old Testament that this phrase is used to refer to Jesus and His involvement in man’s affairs. But this is not the only one. Next week we will look at some other terms and phrases that are used for the same purpose.

I hope we all are beginning to have a better understanding that the entirety of God’s Word involves Jesus and He appeared many times before the New Testament writings. But that stands to reason. He was and is and shall ever be God!

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”  John 1:1-2 

The Old Testament Jesus

We are all familiar with the story of the birth of Jesus that we find in the New testament of God’s Holy Word. We know Him as the Son of God, God Incarnate, Savior of the world and Lord of our lives. But there are millions of others who have also heard of the birth of Jesus but do not have a personal relationship with Him or even understand what that means. There are also many church members that certainly believe the story of His birth and even believe He is who He said He is. But the fact is they seem to think that Jesus came to this earth at his physical birth for the very first time. In other words, the only time He was here was during His life on earth from His birth to His ascension. They never reach a point of understanding that He was here many times before He was born to Mary in that stable in Bethlehem. Maybe even some of us don’t realize how many times the Old Testament records His visitation to this world in times past.

Over the next few weeks we are going to take a look at several of those times He made a physical appearance in this world. We will not be able to cover them all but there will be enough to help us realize that Jesus has been interested and involved in the lives of people from the very beginning. The first few verses of the book of John make it very clear that Jesus was from the beginning and still is and forever will be God. And His hands have been in every detail of human life from the day Adam was created and He has appeared on earth on many occasions. This evening we will take a look at what most theologians consider the very first of such appearances.

We find in Genesis 13 the story of how Abram leaves the land of Egypt with his wife and all of his possessions and Lot goes with him. Abram eventually settles in the land of Canaan but Lot decides to settle near the wicked city of Sodom. In that chapter we also find that God makes a binding promise to Abram concerning the land he would occupy and how his descendents would multiply. We know this as the Abrahamic Covenant. But immediately after that in Genesis 14 the story continues with the invasion of Sodom and Gomorrah by four powerful kings which results in Lot and all of his possessions being taken away by those kings. When Abram gets word of this he puts together a small army and goes after them. He successfully defeats the kings and not only brings lot back with all of his belongings, he brings back the women and the rest of the people who had been taken. And here is where we see the appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament.

The Bible says that the King of Sodom went out to meet Abram upon his return and that the King of Salem brought out bread and wine. The name of this king was Melchizedek and God’s Word states that he was a priest of God Most High. And he blessed Abram. This was a physical and personal activity on the part of Jesus. Hebrew 5:6 states that God Himself declares Jesus as a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedec. And then in Chapter 7 that the name Melchizedec translates as king of righteousness and that King of Salem meant king of peace. It goes on to say that “he was without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.” This can only be a description of Jesus. Isaiah the prophet and Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and to the church at Rome offer additional support of this.

Isaiah 9:6 refers to Jesus as the Prince of Peace. In Ephesians 2: 14 Paul says “He Himself is our peace” and in Romans 10: 4 he states “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus. He is the theme and subject throughout all of God’s Word from Genesis to Revelation. And the Old Testament reveals Him for who He is on many other occasions as we will see in the coming weeks.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”  John 1:1-2  

Pastors; God’s Men

In 1992 a group of pastors and religious leaders established what they called Clergy Appreciation Day. The intent was to honor and show appreciation to pastors all over the world for the role they play in their churches. This later became what is known today as Pastor Appreciation Day which is celebrated on the second Sunday in October of each year. Many now consider the month of October as Pastor Appreciation Month. Although this special day and month has been established by men, the idea of showing some kind of tangible appreciation to a pastor by their local congregation has some support from scripture. With this in mind let’s consider what is meant by the word pastor and what God has to say about them.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term pastor as “a spiritual overseer; a clergyman serving a local church or parish”. And from the original biblical languages the literal meaning is “a helper, or feeder of the sheep” which is the more correct definition from a theological perspective. The word carries with it the thought that it is one who loves and cares for, in all ways, those whom he has been given charge over. And to be sure, God is the One who has given the pastor charge over the flock. In other words, the pastor is called, not self-appointed. In addition, the Bible leaves no room for the position to be held by a woman.  Therefore, to summarize, a pastor is a man who has been called by God to serve in that capacity. If these two qualifications are not met, then the person who calls themselves a pastor is serving in the flesh and is not being led by the Spirit.

As we look at the scriptures we see way back in the Old Testament days, the prophet Jeremiah records these words from God himself concerning His chosen people. “Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding”, Jeremiah 3:15. In his letter to the Romans Paul writes “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”, Romans 10:14. And in Ephesians 4:11, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,”. We can certainly see from these verses that God who chooses the pastor and gives the flock to shepherd.

God has also given instructions to those of us who are counted among the sheep as to how we are to consider our pastor. In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul writes “We request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.”, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13. In the book of Hebrews we see more exhortation concerning our attitude towards pastors. “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”, Hebrews 13:7 and again in Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

There are many other verses that can be considered to understand the many aspects of being a pastor and how we are to act towards them. And in all of these we have cited, and those we have not, we will find that God uses pastors to take care of His sheep. And if we are not part of a local flock (church) with a qualified and dedicated pastor we are not being fed and cared for like God has intended.

The fact that my dad was a God called preacher and pastor has given me an insight to the difficulties that come with the task that others may not understand. I witnessed the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, the trying times and the times of celebration that he and our family went through. I developed such a great respect for him because of how he carried out the responsibilities that God gave him because he always did it all with joy and not grief as we saw in the scripture above. And in the midst of it all, he always stood on God’s Word and never compromised what was right. And today, I have great respect for those pastor’s that truly love and care for their flock while still having the courage to proclaim the truths of God’s Word in a day that it may not be well received even by some of their own flock. I have been fortunate to have had those type of men of God as my pastor and I can certainly say that I have that kind of pastor today!

So, my hat is off to every pastor who stands on God’s Word and feeds and leads as God has intended him to do. No doubt some of you whom I greatly respect in that capacity are likely reading this post. And for those of you who are not pastors, the best thing we can do for them is pray for them on a daily basis. They have an awesome responsibility and I know Satan does everything he can to try to destroy the work they do. But I stand with and beside them! Do you?