Thursday, February 25, 2010
Read Luke 2:21-39
The two questions that I have in my study did not speak to me, but I just kept seeing this unfold in my mind while I read these verses: God’s helicopter view…times two…
In case you are new to the term “helicopter view,” I’ll try and briefly explain it. We as humans were placed in “time,” which was created by God. It’s easy to conceptualize God creating mountains and animals, but it is easy to forget or not even consider that God created everything. Concepts more difficult to quantify like the ebbs and waves of life, desires, and time. We must live in a time line, past present, and future. However, because God created time, he is outside of time. He has what is called the helicopter view. Imagine Him hovering over the Earth and seeing everything happen at once. Not just everywhere at the same time, but everything, everywhere throughout all time.
In these verses there are two groups of people whose lives are going to converge. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were coming to the temple to dedicate Jesus to the Lord, as require by Jewish law. In verse 25 we meet a man named Simeon who lived in Jerusalem. It says that he was righteous and devout and waiting for the Messiah to come. The Holy Spirit was upon him. It says, “moved by the Spirit,” he went to the temple courts. Think of God’s helicopter view hovering over this part of the world. We can see Joseph, Mary, and Jesus walking toward the temple and from a different direction, Simeon walking to the temple where they will meet. God used the law and tradition to bring Jesus’ family to the temple, but he used the urging of the Holy Spirit to bring Simeon, demonstrating different methods God employs for the participation in his purpose. Simeon was able to “hear” the Holy Spirit because he was righteous, devout, and “looking” for Him. What if Simeon had ignored the Holy Spirit, like we do so many times..? What if Simeon had the leading from the Holy Spirit to go to the temple, but instead stayed on his couch and watched TV? It doesn’t appear that the ultimate plan of God would have been thwarted in any way, but Simeon would have missed out on a great gift from God. He could have missed meeting Jesus, the Savior of the world. So often, when we ignore God’s urging in our life, it is not the rest of humanity that misses out, but us. God’s plan will go on with or without you. However, he gives us many chances to be part of his purpose. This is a gift to you, don’t miss it.
On a side note, and certainly worthy of its own study is how the helicopter view interacts with sin. Many times, Christians can’t get a grip on their sin and salvation. “I asked Jesus into my life, but I keep on sinning.” Must I keep asking him into my life? How can God forgive me of sins I have not yet committed? Remember that God is outside of time, and when you finally answer your knocking door and ask God to forgive you, he sees all your sins, past, present, and future at one time. He forgives you for the sins you don’t know about yet…
Simeon got to meet Jesus. He got to interact with Joseph and Mary. He was able to bless them with some encouraging words…and otherwise. If this did not happen, the rest of the world would have kept moving along, but Simeon would have missed a huge gift from God. Listen to the Holy Spirit; don’t miss out of all that God has to offer...
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Tremendous Faith Before John could be John
Read Luke 1:57-66
Here we find Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, giving birth to John. Many people, neighbors and relatives heard about the birth and shared in her joy. This seems normal except for one thing. Elizabeth was not able to have children her whole life and now she was very old. Because of this, you can imagine that this birth was "relatively" famous in the area. The Bible says that the people "shared in her joy." This is important as we will see ahead. Now they are on the eighth day, the day of the circumcision. Many people were there and they were discussing what to name the child. Imagine being in a culture where your first son is everything to you. He gets your inheritance, leadership of the family, and is your namesake. The pride of any man at that time was to have a son in which he could pass on HIS legacy.
(If you read my Bible study post on Luke 1:1-25 "What can we learn from John the Baptist's father," you see that Zechariah lost his ability to speak for doubting God. We questioned if the purpose of this was so he would learn to "listen" better to his wife and to God?) (Also check my last post on Mary's Melody to see some discussion about pride and humility.)
Let me paint you a mental picture of the scene. The room is crowded with friends and family. They are all excited because of the miraculous birth of Zechariah's son. A son whom everyone assumed was never coming because of his wife's age and infertility. The son to whom Zach could finally leave his legacy. A son who would assume his duties in the family. A son who was his pride and joy. A son who would take the family name. (Go to Genesis 1:27-30. God has just given Adam rule over all the animals and living creatures on the Earth. Jump to Genesis 2:19-20. Here Adam is naming everything on Earth as a symbol of his rule over them; 'including Eve'.) …Back to the room… All the men are joyous and contemplating the new boy's name when out of the corner a woman yells, "NO!" See the room fall silent as everyone turns to her in astonishment. "Who does she think she is?” "Doesn’t she know her place?" For as we all know, women in that time, in that society, did not have the freedom and position to question the authority of men. Now see the whole room take their eyes off Elizabeth and turn in unison across the room to Zechariah to see what he would do about his insubordinate wife. Imagine Zach's face turning red as all eyes fall on him. What would he do?
Before we read what he did do, let's imagine what he would have done with the ability to talk... Remember the scene in the room, excitement, shouting over each other’s voices, joy at the new birth and fact that there is finally an heir to the family. Would he have scolded his wife in front of everyone? Would he have "put her in her place? We don't know, but maybe this very moment was the reason he had lost his ability to speak???
Instead of responding on impulse, he had to ask for a tablet to write his response. Thus giving him time to think, and maybe pray. As he is writing down the name John, he is doing much more than just giving the boy a name. It is like he is signing a contract where he is acknowledging that this boy belongs to God, not to him. (It was while praying that the angel of the Lord appeared to Zach and told him he would have a son and to name him John. (Luke 1: 11-13) John did not get to name “his” son after himself, as was the custom. He was instructed to give him a name that was nowhere in the family line. This may or may not seem significant today, but it was very much so in those days, as is evidenced by the people gathering to discuss his name earlier in the story. This son would not be “following in his father’s footsteps,” but rather he was market for great service to God. Zechariah knew all of this while he was writing down the name Jon. He must have remembered that for his whole life he had no son. It was only eight days ago that his son was born. It was only months earlier that there was any hope at all. He must have remembered that just a while ago he had been given the gift of a son. And he must have realized that he was not signing away his son, but acknowledging that God had plans for this boy and that he Zachariah the gift of being a part of that purpose.
Standing in that room, will all of those expectant, silent, eyes on him, he passed the tablet back with the name John written on it. What honor did he bring to God by doing this? What honor did he bring to his wife by publicly doing this? It took enormous humility and enormous faith. What kind of whiteness did this give for the people in the area? It says that everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” verse 65. What can we learn from this act of humility? Have we ever been given a gift from God and then clutched it with tight fists? Have we ever had selfish goals for that which was placed in our control for God’s purpose?
Friday, February 19, 2010
Read Luke 1:26-38
How many features of the person and mission of the promised child can be discerned in the words of the angel? Make a list of them.
Whenever you are doing a Bible study and you get a question like this, seemingly simple to put on paper. “Just a list? I can do that…” But then ask yourself, why this list? What does it mean? Is there a pattern to the list at all? Here is the list from the reading:
Son of Mary
Name him Jesus
He will be great
Son of the most high
Give him throne of father David
Reign over house of Jacob
Kingdom will never end
Son of God
So I made a list. I can be done. I can feel like I did something. That is all true, but like all things involved with God, there can be so much more if you are willing to “dig deeper.”
So let’s dig deeper… when I look at the list I see a pattern develop. He is the son of:
This list is book ended by Mary (human) and God (deity). Is this stating that Jesus will be both man and God? Next I see that he will be the son of David, then the son of Jacob. These are out of chronological order. What does this signify? Jesus is outside of time? (It does not say literally that he is Jacob’s son, but it does say that he will reign over his house. This is the honor of the first son, so it is implied.)
What else is in the list? He is great, He will be a ruler, and He will be holy. Webster states that holy is:
1 : exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness
2 : divine
3 : devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity
If you read over the verses fast, this word “holy” can get missed for all its meaning. Another observation is that all these items on the list appear to be interlinked by Jesus signifying that he is the “glue” that holds everything together.
You can read these few verses and think it is a quick explanation of how Jesus cam to be, or you can read over these verses and see that they state many attributes about Jesus, his character, some of his purpose, his position, and nature. This could have been added: You will have a son. He will be both human and God. (Omniscient) He will defy time, (omnipresent), He is both your descendent and your father. He will rule the world, and he will by Holy, or worthy of God.
These are just a few things I was able to pull from this list. What else is there?
What can John the Baptist’s father teach us?
Read Luke 1: 1-24:
What was the cause of Zechariah’s punishment? What made him hesitate to believe the angel’s message? What similar temptations to unbelief do you face? Why ought Zechariah to have believed and why ought we to believe?
Zechariah was punished by not being able to speak until his son was born. He did not believe that God could/would give him a son because he and his wife were too old. Zach made a very common mistake. He looked at his situation thru the eyes of the world and not the Word. God called him to job that required faith, but Zach “knew” that people his age did not have children. Rather than have faith in the message that was sent by the Creator of the universe, he relied on his own worldly understanding. How often do we do this? Every day? God calls us to job’s that we cannot do with only our worldly understanding. That is the beauty of God’s calling. We can do things that we can already do. God wants us to do things that we cannot do…without him. This is what faith demonstrated is. This is the opportunity God gives us to trust in him daily.
You will also notice that God’s mission was going to be completed with or without Zach’s initial faith. There are always two ways to learn things, the hard way and the easy way. Have faith in God and do what he says even if it makes no worldly sense. That is the easy way… But we rarely do that. We insist on balancing both the world view and God’s calling. Because of his initial distrust in God, Zach would complete the same mission only without the ability to talk. Why did God decide to “teach” Zach thru this method? Could it be that this would force him to “think” before he speaks? (What is the opposite of talking?) Could it be to force him to “listen?”
When God asks us to do things that we cannot accomplish without him, it is a gift. It is an invitation to grow our faith and reliance on Him.