The Return to Nazareth
Wednesday, 15 December, 2021
This Scripture passage shares the third time an angel appeared to Joseph giving him instruction, and each time, he obeyed. On the first occasion, the angel appeared to tell Joseph not to put Mary away since she was pregnant and he was not the father. It would take a supernatural event for a man to understand the virgin birth. And Joseph obeyed.
Next an angel appeared to tell Joseph to take Mary and the baby to Egypt since the baby’s life was threatened by Herod the king. And Joseph obeyed. Again, an angel appeared to Joseph to direct Joseph to come back to Israel since Herod was dead. And again, Joseph obeyed. (There are no more Scriptures indicating an angel appeared to Joseph.)
Historical background: Joseph was warned in a dream to avoid Judea since Archelaus, Herod’s evil son, was ruling there. Herod the Great’s domain was divided into three regions for his sons to rule in his place. Archelaus was very much like his father in his violent actions. Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee, Samaria and Idumea, Herod Philip II ruled over Traconitis.
So, Joseph took Mary and the baby back to Nazareth in Galilee (Luke 1:26). So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23).
The following Scriptures prophesy that Jesus would not be highly esteemed:
Life Application Questions
Does it follow that obedience will yield a life of comfort? Joseph’s life is an example.
Does godliness necessarily yield a life of respect by men?
What then, is our motivation to obey God?
The Days Are Coming
Jeremiah 31:15, 27-40
December 14, 2021
The days are coming when we will fully comprehend the promises of God fulfilled. Eyes light up with wonder at the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree. Hearts sing as the Hallelujah chorus swells. Wrapped gifts are studied in anticipation of what could be inside. Sin swept hearts stutter at the possibility of being made whole. “The days are coming”; What does that phrase mean to you? In Jeremiah 31,the Jewish people heard the “The days are coming”, and it breathed into them the hope of a new covenant. In the coming of Christ, the Gentiles heard “The days are coming” and received the hope and wonder of being grafted into this new covenant.
“The days are coming’, declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and the people of Judah”. (Jeremiah 31:31) God was establishing a new covenant. No longer would the ramifications of the sins of Israel and Judah be based on their sins as a nation, but it would be based their personal sin issues. (Jeremiah 31:29-30) God is moving the responsibility for sin from the nation to the individual, and setting the stage for the Messiah to step into the world He created. “The days are coming”. “God holds out His hands to an obstinate people.” (Isaiah 65:2) How does the new covenant, with God’s chosen people, impact you?
The hope that fills the new covenant, described in Jeremiah 31, is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. (Matthew 26:27-29) Read Romans 11:11-24, how are the Gentiles grafted into God’s family? “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel.” (Ephesians 3:6) Anyone who puts their faith in Jesus Christ shares in this new covenant. “By calling this covenant new’, he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13) “The days are coming” gave divine birth to the experience of regeneration, being born again, into the family of God. (John 3:1-21) “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)
“The days are coming”, when Christ will triumphantly return. “…He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.” (Jeremiah 31:10) Read Jeremiah 31: 11-14: How will God’s people respond when He gathers them? How do you respond to God’s coming for you and His imminent return? “If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire; if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close or even into the thing that has them.” (C.S. Lewis)
Do you ever wonder?
December 13, 2021
Do you ever wonder why God does what he does? Or the way he does it? It's probably a worthless endeavor. Who are we to second guess God Almighty and his plan for the ages?
Have you wondered how or why God is working in your life? How are you responding when you don't understand what he's doing?
A Christmas song, written several years ago, expressed Joseph's thoughts about the unusual circumstances God had planned for his life.
I'm sure he must have been surprised
At where this road had taken him
Cause never in a million lives
Would he have dreamed of Bethlehem
And standing at the manger
He saw with his own eyes
The message from the angel come to life
And Joseph said
Why me, I'm just a simple man of trade
Why Him with all the rulers in the world
Why here inside this stable filled with hay
Why her, she's just an ordinary girl
Now I'm not one to second guess
What angels have to say
But this is such a strange way to save the World.1
So, why did God tell Joseph to take Mary and the child to Egypt? Couldn't he have protected them in Bethlehem? The journey from Bethlehem to what is Egyptian-controlled territory (which was outside the jurisdiction of Herod) was at least 65 kilometers (40 miles). And it isn't like there was a Greyhound Bus service between the two. Hope the donkey Mary rode from Nazareth to Bethlehem was still "up and running." Because there was a large Jewish population living there at the time, they were undoubtedly welcome.2
Why Egypt, a place that had been so cruel to Israel, enslaving them for 400 years? You recall that another Joseph was taken there as a captive, and later became the second-in-command and saved the nation from starvation. In some ways, Jesus' earthly father, Joseph, also brought a Savior to Egypt.
We cannot understand the mind of God because his "thoughts" are above ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). The trip to Egypt may have been simply to accomplish God’s unseen purposes. The same is true in your life. Even if, like Joseph, you think what God is doing is "such a strange thing," one day you will understand that he was accomplishing his purposes in your life.
In uncertain times, here’s God’s unfailing promise: Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). s jbd & gmd
1 Songwriters: David Allen Clark / Donald A. Koch / Mark R. Harris: A Strange Way to Save the World lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
2 Thoughts from Norman A. Olson, Baptist Bible Press
Joseph and Mary’s Quandary
Friday, 10 December 2021
Joseph, I need to ask you a question. The prophet Hosea, was he really married to a practicing prostitute? And he didn’t divorce her, which he had every right to do? It seems terribly out of place for one of God’s prophets to be in such a position.
Sadly, it’s true, Mary. When we hear the book of Hosea read aloud in the synagogue, it’s shocking. The words prostitution and adultery appear repeatedly throughout the book almost like it’s shouting. Who can imagine a love story more one-sided than that?
But was it truly possible for Hosea to continue loving Gomer while she was sleeping around with other men, even getting pregnant by them? Why would Hosea put up with that? How could he?
Well, Mary, there’s more to the story than meets the eye. You know how God sent prophet after prophet to our kinsmen, calling them to repent of their never-ending idolatry. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to do much good. God even sent Jonah far away to Nineveh to preach to pagan Gentiles. And surprise, they repented right away! I think that was a foil for God’s Chosen people and a wake-up call. God tried every angle to get his people to repent.
Okay, Joseph, I think I see what you’re getting at. Hosea and his adulterous wife Gomer were actually a mirror, or a foil, as you say, for God and the idolatrous Israelites. God had every right to call it quits with them. After all, he was no longer their chosen God, so why should they be his Chosen People?! They failed him miserably, worshiping other gods, yet he loved them with an unfailing love.
Yes, God’s love is amazing. And my love for you will last forever too.
Joseph, will you love me like Hosea loved Gomer?
Yes, without a doubt. But why do you put it that way?
Joseph, I’m afraid to tell you, but I’m . . . I’m pregnant.
Mary! What did you say? No, no, it couldn’t be! You couldn’t possibly be a prostitute!
Indeed, I assure you, I’m not. The bad news is, people are going to think I am.
Then how in the world could you be pregnant if not by some other man?
Joseph, you’re going to find this hard to believe even as I do. Out of nowhere an angel appeared to me and told me that I would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit!
Really? You expect me to believe that? You might as well tell me that camels can fly!
Joseph, I know this is the hardest thing in the world for us. If you think it’s best to call off our relationship, I will be devastated. But please believe me, I’m still a virgin!
Mary, I love you so very much. Yes, I think I can love you like Hosea loved Gomer, even if what you’re claiming isn’t true. But I really do want to believe you. It’s just totally unheard of. It’s physically impossible for you to be pregnant by, what did you say, the Holy Spirit? Unbelievable!
After Joseph had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matt 1:20-21).
Life Application Questions
An Intentional Journey
“…Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem…” (Matthew 2:7-8a). The intrepid and mysterious strangers focus on their mission. No king or laborious travel keeps them from their perceived assignment to find the child.
Our travels may not be divinely directed; but, for our personal journeys we hope to arrive on time. We hope our connections work. We hope luggage is not lost. We hope for a peaceful flight. We hope for good weather. Hope must be strong for when traveling with Covid in the air, special challenges await.
We are unaware of the traveling conditions or health concerns of the Magi. However, their hope, their passion is on full display, in our brother Matthew’s partial account of their journey.
We know one portion of the story: “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route” (Matthew 2:12). Having achieved their goal of finding the child, these Magi disappear from Scripture’s record as the motivated travelers who were among the first to welcome the new born King.
Hope is a powerful force. Hope encourages disciples when sin threatens to ruin us. Hope lifts hearts when depression diminishes. Hope raises light on cemetery-grounds. Hope calls us from nightmares into the sustaining abundance of milk and honey. Hope is the Christ, when all others fail.
Your greatest hope?
During challenging times, which spiritual disciplines reawaken your determination to be hopeful?
Is there one person, more than others, who encourages you to be hopeful?
Do you find yourself living as hopeful disciple?
Do other disciples know you a source of hope?