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“When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'” Matthew 2:3-6
If it wasn’t previously clear that King Herod didn’t really belong on Israel’s throne, it is now. For one, he’s disturbed by the news, worried that the true king has been born somewhere and people will now try to depose Herod. And second, he has to talk to Jerusalem’s religious leaders–the former high priest, Annas; the current high priest, Caiaphas; all of their families on the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin; and their own synagogue teachers–to learn about the true king.
Curiously, the city of Jerusalem was also disturbed by the news that a true king of Israel had been born. Was it because they liked Herod’s rule? Or maybe they were loyalists and wondered what the coming of the Messiah really meant for them? Certainly–even though they knew the sign of the virgin being with child–they hadn’t expected the proclamation to come about a baby king.
Unlike Herod, who had to rely on the religious leader’s knowledge of scripture for answers, the Jewish citizens of Jerusalem would have known full well that the the Messiah was supposed to be born exactly where Jesus had been born. They would have grown up hearing the words of Micah [5:2] in the Synagogue. The very religious leaders that Herod turned to had taught the people of Jerusalem to know this sign.
Jesus, the Lord of lords and King of kings [Revelation 17:14], would be a shepherd-ruler the way that King David was called to shepherd, or lead, Israel [2 Samuel 5:2]. A shepherd protects the flock, keeping the sheep away from dangerous places as much as fighting off the evils that come. A shepherd guides the sheep along the path to good grass and clean water. Sometimes he must carry an obstinate sheep along, but he can’t force him to eat or drink that which is best.
The sheep must choose to follow. The sheep must choose to stay away from danger. The sheep must trust the shepherd to fight off predators. The sheep must choose to eat the green grass and drink the clean water. In essence, the sheep must choose to live life in the shepherd’s care.
As human sheep to Christ our shepherd, we must also choose to learn His Word and know His voice [John 10:27-28].
Jesus was born to shepherd your whole heart–intellect, will and emotion–have you given all to Him? Are you walking close beside Him or straying toward the dangers of sin? Are you hungry for the banquet of righteousness He is daily preparing for you or have you sated your appetites with the things of the world [Matthew 5:6; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31]?
“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.” Matthew 1:1-6a
The Israelites kept meticulous genealogies throughout their history. Family lineage was extremely important for earthly reasons, but God also determined an accurate recording of the direct line through whom Jesus would come.
At the outset of Matthew’s genealogical recalling, Jesus is named the Messiah–the promised deliverer of the Jewish nation. First, the author notes, in backwards order, the two most important men in Jesus’ line. He is the promised son of King David who will reign forever on the throne [2 Samuel 7:16; 1 Kings 9:5; Jeremiah 33:17; et al]. He is also the promised seed of the patriarch Abraham through whom the whole world will be blessed [Genesis 12:2-3, 18:18 & 22:18; Galatians 3:8].
Then the genealogy follows forward from the first notable ancestor. [Although, just like the rest of us, Jesus line can be traced all the way back to Noah and Adam. So we truly are brothers and sisters of Christ!] All three patriarchs make the list–Abraham, Isaac and Jacob–the three men with whom God identifies Himself to Moses at the burning bush [Exodus 3:6]. Jacob was later called Israel and the Jewish nation took this name from him [Genesis 32:28].
Jacob’s son Judah, meaning praise, is mentioned next as are his sons by Tamar [Genesis 38]. Tamar is one of the few women mentioned in the genealogy of Christ, she kept Judah accountable to his duties. And on down to Salmon the father of Boaz before another woman is mentioned. In fact, Boaz is tied to two notable women in Jesus’ lineage. His mother, Rahab, was the woman who aided the Canaanite spies when the Israelites were scouting out the Promised Land [Joshua 2 & 6]. And his wife, Ruth, was the Moabitess who accompanied her mother-in-law Naomi back to her homeland [Ruth 1:6-22].
From these came King David, the man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22]. Jesus is the fulfillment of promise after promise. He is the son of Eve that will crush the serpent’s head [Genesis 3:15]. He is the seed of Abraham through whom the whole world–Jew and Gentile alike–will be blessed. And He is the son of David, the righteous one, who will always sit on the throne.
Do you understand the significance of Jesus’ genealogy? Are you ready to give an answer about Jesus’ lineage? More importantly, have you accepted Abraham’s seed with mustard-like faith and become a co-heir with Christ?
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22
God is merciful–rather than requiring us to pay the debt of our own sin He forgives us if and when we ask [Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4; Romans 6:23].
Because of this, the kingdom of heaven–the redeemed of the Lord on this earth–are made anew in His image so that we might also be merciful.
We are to forgive–plain and simple. Forgive when others ask, and extend forgiving mercies even when they don’t ask.
God is also infinite. Therefore, His mercy has no end. Though we are commanded to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect [Matthew 5:48], we all still fall short of the full measure of the glorious mercy of God [Romans 3:23].
Seven is the heavenly number of completion and, therefore, perfection. It may have seemed to Peter like a righteous extension of self to be so generously forgiving. But Jesus instructed Peter to multiply his human understanding of mercy. Seventy times seven is a huge number in terms of finite human mercies, but it completely vanishes against the infinite ocean of God’s compassion and forgiveness.
No wonder King David declared that he would rather fall into God’s hands than men’s [2 Samuel 24:14; 1 Chronicles 21:13]. God’s mercies surpass human mercies every time–as does His love, His grace, His goodness, His faithfulness, His justice and every other facet about Him.
Though we will never equal His mercy, we were made in God’s image and washed in the blood of His Son, Jesus, so that we would live mercifully with all. Not just when we feel like it. Not just when we get a reasonable apology. Not just when we stand to gain. Not just with people that we prefer. But merciful at all times, and maybe especially when it hurts or when we stand to lose. After all, while we were still sinners–nailing Christ to the cross–He mercifully died for us [Romans 5:8].
How generous and steadfast is your mercy? Will you allow the Holy Spirit to multiply your understanding of compassion and forgiveness?
“David said to Gad, ‘I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” 2 Samuel 24:14 & 1 Chronicles 21:13
God is merciful. And we were made in His image to love one another and to do good works [Leviticus 19:9-18; Mark 12:31; Ephesians 2:10]. Not the least of these is to be merciful and compassionate with our fellow human beings [Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31].
Mercy is the deeds accompaniment to our faith [James 2:17 & 26]–giving a cup of cold water [Matthew 10:42; Mark 9:41], doing more than just wishing someone warm and well fed [James 2:16].
Mercy extended to the people around us reflects our love for God. How we treat the apple of His eye is how we treat Him [Deuteronomy 32:10; Psalm 17:8; Zechariah 2:8; Matthew 25:31-46].
How ironic that the eternity in our hearts calls to the mercy we were made for yet rejects He who is our mercy [Ecclesiastes 3:11]. How many decry God’s mercies because the people in their lives are not merciful? How many insist that because human beings can be ruthless and wicked that therefore God cannot be merciful?
When we recognize wrong, it is because of God’s justice patterned deep in our image. When we recognize foolishness, it is because of God’s wisdom calling to the eternity in our hearts. When we recognize apathy and cruelty, it is because of God’s mercy woven intricately into the fiber of our being.
We were made in the image of the All-powerful, All-loving and All-merciful God. We were made to compassionately meet needs. We were made to love those who hate us [Matthew 5:10-12 & 44; Luke 6:27-28]. We were made to take up the cross of Christ and to daily forgive the multitude of wrongs visited on us [Matthew 16:24 & 18:22; Luke 9:23].
And when we do not do what we were made for, the world accuses God for our unfaithfulness. The world rejects God, because His light is dimmed or dirtied by our sinfulness.
Will you live out the mercy you were made for?
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.'” Lamentations 3:22-24
God is merciful–He doesn’t return our sinful rebellion with hostility. Instead, He patiently shows us kindness, lovingly dispenses goodness and faithfully offers grace.
Each day that we have His breath of life in our lungs [Genesis 2:7], the Holy Spirit knocks at our hearts, offering to breathe eternal life into our soul [John 20:22; Revelation 3:20].
Have you ever wondered why we as human beings consider midnight the end of the day? From the Creation, morning culminated the day, not night [Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23 & 31].
Darkness is not the end of the story.
Each morning that the sun rises from our darkened world, God’s mercies–His compassions–are right there with it.
After Jesus’ crucifixion, they laid Him in the tomb. Three days later, on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women went to the tomb and found it empty [Luke 24:1-3]. Like the sun, our Savior rose with the morning’s light, God’s mercies made new at the close of the heavenly day.
On another occasion after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples while they were fishing. Prime fishing time is often associated with falling and lifting darkness. At the close of the fishing day, early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore calling to them [John 21:4]. Though they’d returned to their old way of life, He mercifully multiplied their catch. And though Peter’s courage had failed him at Jesus’ arrest, our Lord mercifully renewed Peter’s calling.
Being made in God’s image, no wonder He commanded us not to let the sun go down on our anger, which gives the devil a foothold [Ephesians 4:26]. It binds up our mercy so that we don’t shine in the darkness. So that the contempt we hold for others through the night holds onto us when the day ends with morning’s light.
One day soon, though, Jesus is coming again to our darkened world [Revelation 22:7 & 12]. He will come as the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds [2 Samuel 23:4]. He will rise as the sun of righteousness with healing in its rays [Malachi 4:2]. And we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, in that restored Eden where darkness will never fall on us again [Psalm 23:6 & 27:4]. Where God Himself will be our light, the bright and Morning Star at the close of the eternal heavenly day [2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 2:28, 22:5 & 16].
Does God’s mercy shine through you? Have you chosen for your story to end in sin and darkness? Or heaven’s merciful morning light?
“Moses said to God, ‘Suppose 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?’ Then what shall I tell them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” Exodus 3:13-14
‘Eh-yeh. The Hebrew word, translated I AM here also translates I have been/was [2 Samuel 15:34; Psalm 50:21] and I will be [Joshua 1:5; Isaiah 47:7; Hosea 14:5] in other scripture passages. Past, present and future. Eternally existent, in a word, is the Word through whom and by whom all things were created [John 1:1-3].
Remember that repetition was the biblical way to bold-type, italicize, highlight or otherwise emphasize an idea. So in giving His name to Moses, ‘Eh-yeh aser ‘eh-yeh, God emphasizes His existence. Not just the eternality, but the primacy or preeminence of Him. God was the first [Genesis 1:1; Revelation21:6 & 22:13]. All existence comes from Him alone, and without Him nothing and no one exists [John 1:1-3].
Not only so, but He created human beings in His image [Genesis 1:26-27]–our existence derived from His. So why is it that in 1637, French philosopher, Rene Descartes, coined the popular phrase, Cogito, ergo sum–I think, therefore I am? Satan’s perpetual lie to humankind is that we can somehow attain to God-status–or at least shed our need for Him–by attaining mere knowledge [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14].
Such thinking denies the truth of who God truly is. It tricks our finite minds into believing that we can reject His image in us and remake Him after our own image instead–that we can live, whether wholly or in part, of our own accord without any consideration that there is an infinite, sovereign God in heaven.
Through Asaph, the psalmist, God wrote that those who forget God are guilty of thinking that God, in His patient silence, is somehow like themselves [Psalm 50:21]. His quietude condoning their unrepentant sinfulness. But Paul says, they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator [Romans 1:25]. An offense for which we can be forgiven, but for which we need to wholeheartedly repent.
God is not like you or like me. He is God. If we are to rightly know Him, we must start by putting ourselves aside and learning to understand Him for who He truly is. We mustn’t shade or in anyway manipulate His person to ease our conscious. Rather, we must allow Him to shape us and to purify us from all the unrighteousness that weighs down our consciousness before Him, the Holy God [1 John 1:9].
Are you remaking God to fit your image of who you need/want Him to be? Or have you surrendered everything to the Divine Potter’s hand, allowing Him to form you once again in His image?
“They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your mind? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Luke 24:37-39
After Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples–alive! And not just alive, but in bodily form–flesh, blood, hair, fingernails, you name it. But the disciples couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t wrap their understanding around Jesus’ appearance. He didn’t come through the door, He simply stood before them. A dead man. Standing before them. Not even a little bit dead. With all the same human body features that they themselves had. It blew their minds.
The English translation here is problematic in our culture, because the Greek word pneuma or spirit is rendered as ghost. To be clear, there is a spiritual world all around us–angels and demons at war for our souls. Sometimes we can see this spiritual dimension. But ghosts, the supposed spirits of deceased humans, are not a part of it. It’s kind of like the popular myth that when people die they become angels. Like humankind, Angels are uniquely created beings [Hebrews 2:7]. So when we die, though we go to heaven, we do not morph from human to angel. The saints will still be the saints and the angels will still be the angels in heaven [Revelation 7:9-11]. Similarly, when people die, our spirits do not join the spiritual warfare of the angels and the demons, nor we do not haunt those still living.
Rather, just as Jesus told the thief on the cross–who acknowledged Him as Lord–that he would be in heaven with Jesus that same day they died [Luke 23:43], so we believe that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord [2 Corinthians 5:8]. And for those who are not believers, their souls sleep with their bodies in the ground until the judgment [Revelation 20:11-15].
Christians are often spiritually sensitive, even from a young age, sensing the spiritual battles around us. But we do not need to be afraid. God reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light [Job 12:22]. He is our lamp that turns our darkness into light [2 Samuel 22:29]. Where He is, darkness cannot be because darkness cannot stand in the presence of light [John 1:5]. That is, darkness cannot overcome or overtake the light.
When spiritual fears and worldly superstitions threaten to overwhelm our senses, we need only to call on the name of Jesus. If we remain in Him, He is with us. His authority will drive out every demonic spirit that tries to come against us [Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 1:21-34 & 5:1-17] and, at the same time, He will fill us with a peace that beyond anything we could understand [Philippians 4:7].
Is the Lord your lamp? Does the truth of His word light your way [Psalm 119:105]?