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“But after he 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.” Matthew 1:20-21
God is omniscient. He knew Joseph’s heart–his thoughts and motivations [1 Samuel 16:7; Jeremiah 17:10; Hebrews 4:12]. He knew that Joseph and Mary were righteous and God-fearing. He knew that Mary would face public disgrace and possible life-ending consequences depending on Joseph’s reaction. But He also knew that Joseph was the man He could trust to see that Mary was well cared for as she bore the Christ child.
Joseph was a Godly father and husband. That was why he wrestled with the righteousness piece of this whole finding-Mary-pregnant-during-their-engagement thing. He knew that he hadn’t slept with her.
But God intervenes in Joseph’s understanding to set the record straight. God brings the light of truth through an angelic dream. Dream oracles were a firm part of ancient beliefs and not just in Israel. However, God spoke in dreams to the patriarch Jacob [Genesis 28:11-19], his son Joseph [Genesis 37:5-11], King Solomon [1 Kings 3:5-15; and many of the prophets [Numbers 12:6; Daniel 7].
It’s interesting that the angel addresses Joseph by his genealogy. Had anyone ever called him Joseph son of David before? Because of the meticulously kept family records, he surely knew his own descent from the great patriarch Abraham and King David, but did he readily identify with these two men of promise? God wants to make sure that Joseph now understands what his significance in this story is.
By calling Joseph his genealogical title God is showing that the baby to be born in his family will fulfill the promise made to King David. God further expands on this explanation, assuring Joseph that Mary has not been with another man. She is still a virgin, miraculously carrying God’s own child–which will be born a son.
Now there was no way to know in those days whether a child would be male or female until it was born. So God reveals the gender in order to confirm that what He is saying is true. When the baby is born and really is a boy, Joseph will understand that the dream really was from God and that the child really is the son of God.
Until then, he has to accept the situation on faith alone. But when the truth is fulfilled–the baby is born and Joseph consummates his marriage with Mary and finds she really still is a virgin–then he has a part to play as well. When Joseph’s faith comes to fruition, he will give his God-man stepson the name Jesus to publicly acknowledge his belief in the truth God spoke to him beforehand.
All of us are born with the seed of faith to believe in God and the truth of His Word. When we study and cultivate our relationship with Him, His Word is fulfilled in our lives through salvation, the fruit of the Spirit lived out in us, and blessings. Is your faith coming to fruition? Or is it drying up in the seed of your passing child and teen years?
“You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of the assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'” Isaiah 14:13-14 [NASB]
God is sovereign. That means that He alone determines what is sin and how much sin–if any–is permissible.
Most people recognize the government’s authority to institute speed limits and to set and enforce consequences for disobeying them. Extrinsic school rules and government laws limit the exercise of our freewill. Yet without such limitations, society would fall into utter chaos, so people are glad to be good citizens.
However, there are plenty of people–who sit in after-school detention, or in-school suspension, or traffic court, or U.S. prisons–that refuse to acknowledge that they have done any wrong. Why? Often it’s simply because they disagree with the authorities. They want to be their own parent, their own school principal or superintendent, or their own police officer and president wrapped into one.
These same transgressors get bitter and angry about having to live according to someone else’s rule. They skirt the compliance line as closely as possible, trying to take back as much autocracy as they can.
You see, Satan lied to all humanity when he said that we could be our own sovereign [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14]. Because of this feel-good deception, we rebel against God’s stringent No-Sin policy [Deuteronomy 1:26, & 9:7 & 23; 1 Samuel 12:14; Daniel 9:9; et al].
Yielding to no one but self as god, we think of ourselves more highly than we ought [Romans 12:3]. I’m not so bad. I’m better than other people I know. I’m good enough. I don’t commit the really big bad sins.
All of it denies God’s goodness as our standard.
It denies His righteousness as the only truth and way to eternal life, justifying the works of our own hands. It is no less than modern idolatry.
It denies His transcendence–that He is equally outside of all sin. To God, sin is sin. There is no grey. No better or worse sins. Not even better or worse people. Just those who have accepted forgiveness and those who refuse Him.
In His sovereignty, God sets the sin limit for inheriting eternity–and He set it at zero.
But all have sinned [Romans 3:23]. It is not our righteousness that opens the gates of heaven to any one of us–not a godly parent or grandparent, not a pastor, not the disciples, not a martyr, not Mother Theresa or Billy Graham. All our righteousness is as filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6]. It is by Christ, who alone is sinless and who has become our righteousness, that we receive eternal life [John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9]. And that’s not license to keep sinning [Romans 6:1]!
Do you think of your own goodness more highly than you ought? To whom does your heart yield? Are you skirting the lines of godliness?
“O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond searching out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?” Romans 11:33-34
God is infinite.
His eternality is only one facet of this truth. It is His infinite nature in regards to the aspect of time.
But everything that God is, He is so infinitely.
No one can calculate the depth of His wisdom, or knowledge, or great love. No one can comprehend the fullness of His truth or the holiness of His justice. No one can give thanks in equal measure to His goodness and mercy. No one can appraise His riches or quantify any aspect of God in anyway. Because–while He Created the order of logic that governs mathematics–He Himself cannot be contained or defined by numbers.
He is God. He is infinite–that is He has no limits, no one and nothing bounds Him in.
We are limited in every way. But in this, and every human weakness, God shows Himself strong in our lives–if we allow Him to [2 Corinthians 12:9-11]. A fact that King Belshazzar was reminded of the hard way.
The hand appeared out of thin air and inscribed on the wall for all to read: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN. Mene and Parsin spoke specifically to Belshazzar’s kingdom, but Tekel speaks to us all.
TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting [Daniel 5:27].
To be weighed on a balance scale, there must be something or someone that we are being weighed against–a measure that we need to match. Being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect [Matthew 5:48]. Being sinless just as Christ was sinless [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Things that we can never attain by our own works [Ephesians 2:8-9]. An infinite plumb line measures our finite existence. Boundless righteousness measures the filthy rags of our most humane works [Isaiah 64:6]. The sinlessly perfect heart of Christ is weighed against our own sinfully rebellious one.
Is there any wonder that we are found wanting?
Only God Himself can meet up to this measure of Godliness. And He gladly did so for our sakes. He lovingly sacrificed His perfect Son Jesus for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:13]. Christ became our righteousness, making peace with God on our behalf [Romans 5:18-21; Ephesians 2:14-18].
Our finite, sinful hearts can never balance in the scales as compared to the infinite, righteous heart of Christ–but it doesn’t have to . By God’s grace, all we need to do to balance the heavenly scales of judgment is accept Christ by faith [John 3:16]. When we do, His heart takes our place. Mercifully, God weighs Jesus’s heart against Jesus in our heart, and the scale balances.
Will you accept God’s infinite love for you? Will you accept His infinite grace in finite faith? Or will you insist on weighing your human effort on the scales and be found wanting?
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:19-23
Veiled in flesh, the Christmas hymn sings. Hail th’incarnate Deity.
Veiled means to be covered in or hidden behind. Flesh is human skin, while incarnate means that God came in that human skin. Deity is God. And hail means to enthusiastically praise in public.
We so often sing, quote, read and hear things that we’ve never really thought about. Words that we know by heart whose meanings have never penetrated the self-same heart.
God is beyond comprehension, self-existent and self-sufficient [amongst other things that we will soon get to], yet many see in the person of Jesus, just a person. Since He was able to be looked upon without people falling dead in His presence, then somehow–if in fact, Jesus is who the scriptures say He is–the Old Testament stories about God the Father must just be lore.
Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar, [Romans 3:4]! THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE HOLY by theologian A.W. Tozer puts it this way, “the Man who walked among us was a demonstration, not of unveiled deity, but of perfect humanity.” Jesus was fully God, but He didn’t expose us to the awful glory of the Godhead because no one could’ve survived it. Rather, being also fully Man–a perfectly sinless man–He clothed His deity to walk among us.
Jesus is the holy standard that we live to attain. We will never be perfectly sinless in this life, but when we grow in our relationship with Him, we learn what it is that God truly desires for each of our lives. He works the sin out of our hearts like a therapist massaging the knots out of strained muscles, and we become more like Him with each moment lived by faith.
Let us be oh so careful not to diminish the awesome power of God in our understanding based on the approachable smile of the painted reminiscences of His Son. But let us live a life worthy of the calling set before us [Philippians 3:14], having the covering of our own human sinfulness removed from our hearts [Deuteronomy 10:12-17, 30:6; Romans 9:25-29]. So that the Word of God can penetrate soft soil rather than ricochet off the hardened heart [Mark 4:8 & 20; Hebrews 3:8 & 15].
What is the condition of your heart–ready to receive God’s Word or impenetrable, hard-pan soil?
“Then he told me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.’ ‘Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.'” Revelation 22:10-12
Books, in John’s day, primarily referred to scrolls–though stitched codices of papyrus also existed which were more like modern books. Scrolls were sealed to ensure that only the intended recipient read what was written and so that it could not be tampered with. But the angel instructs John not to seal this letter before sending it to the churches.
Why not? Because the time to read it is now. And everyone is the intended recipient.
Unlike the prophetic visions given to Daniel which were to happen so long from when Daniel wrote that God commanded them to be sealed until the appropriate time [8:26]. Many fictions have been written, imagining how people in the past would respond to visitors, technology or information from the distant future. It never goes well. Mostly because sinful human beings can’t handle this kind of understanding. They exploit it for selfish gain, rather than use it to the glory of God as they ought.
Moreover, in Daniel’s day, people received the messianic prophecies and needed to focus their minds on understanding these so they would recognize Jesus when He came. Prophecies that concerned the end of the Creation–things that would happen well after the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry–were not easily processed since the Messiah hadn’t yet come.
But now in John’s day, the angel says to let everyone continue in their own way. The time is so near to Jesus’ return, that those who refuse to acknowledge God and live Godly lives–despite the light in the world–are to be left to their own demise. We are to shine the light of Christ into the darkness of the world, though they refuse to perceive it [John 1:5]. We are to learn and understand God’s Word. To study and show ourselves approved [2 Timothy 2:15]. To go into all nations making disciples and baptizing [Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16].
More than that, we are to let the Word of God permeate and wholly change our lives [James 1:24]. Those who accept and believe will be rewarded for the things the gospel works through them. But those who do not believe will be condemned [Mark 16:15-16].
The time to know, understand and live the Word of God is now. Do you?
“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.'” Revelation 22:3-6
The curse of sin will be wiped away [Genesis 3:14-19; Zechariah 14:11; Revelation 7:15-17], because God will dwell there with us. And where He is, sin cannot be also [1 John 3:8-10]. And in ancient times, criminals were banished from the presence of the king. They could never hope to have an audience with him.
But the New Jerusalem is the true Holy of Holies that was foreshadowed in the earthly tabernacle and temple, and, this time, everyone will be able to stand in His presence and live–not just a sanctified priest making a right sacrifice.
For only the pure in heart–the forgiven–will enter heaven and see God [Matthew 5:8]–we who have believed on His Son Jesus [John 3:16] and, by God’s grace, have been made righteous through that faith [Ephesians 2:8-9]. We will bear Christ’s name on our foreheads just as the one’s who were sealed in the Great Tribulation [Revelation 14:1]. And just as God commanded His chosen people nearly 3,400 years ago, we who love the Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and strength we who have His commands written on our hearts and bound to our foreheads, we who make our earthly dwelling with God will have our eternal dwelling with Him as well [Deuteronomy 6:4-8; John 14:2-3].
God Himself is our light–here on this earth and forevermore [Psalm 119:105; John 1:4-12; Revelation 21:23-25]. Every other light source is just a makeshift copy and pattern of God’s true splendor. And just as the shards of precious gems and gold in the earth should turn our eyes to the heaven for which we were made, so also should the sight of light turn our hearts to Him who is light. It should call to remembrance the eternity that God set in our hearts [Ecclesiastes 3:11] and, understanding, draw us closer to Him.
Everything points our attention back to our Creator and loving Father God, the Almighty, the Sovereign of all. Everything from rocks to light are here to remind every human being who we truly are–God’s Holy people, set apart from the Creation [Daniel 7:27] with the express intention that we should rule the earth [Revelation 20:4]. Instead, sin gives Satan the authority that is rightly ours. He becomes the prince and ruler of the air [John 14:30; Ephesians 2:2]. In deceiving us to think that we can be our god [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14], the devil has actually set himself up as the god of this earthly age [2 Corinthians 4:4].
But the faithful will and have already overcome by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. We will no only inherit eternal life, but we will rule and reign with Him forever and ever, just as He always intended. And, these word are true, spoken by the One Who Is Truth [Revelation 19:9 & 21:5]. You can take them to the bank of heaven and live [Matthew 6:19-20].
Do you see by the makeshift lights of earth–lamps and torches, sun, moon and stars? Or are your eyes full of the light of truth [Matthew 6:22-23]?
“It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on the them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Revelation 21:12-14
Recently exiled to Babylon, a prophet arose among the Israelites–Ezekiel. He had the distinct travail of bringing a message of destruction to his fellow expatriates. They would not be returning any time soon to their homeland as they had hoped. Rather they would hear of their sacred temple burning to the ground.
But Ezekiel was also given the message of eternal hope. Israel–and all the nations–would one day stand judgment before God. Their words and actions weighed in the heavenly balance [Daniel 5:27]. The faithful would see Jerusalem restored like never before and the temple refashioned in all its heavenly glory. In this, Ezekiel’s fourth and final vision [Ezekiel 48], we find a description of the New Jerusalem much like the one here in Revelation 21:12, with the primary difference being that of size.
The city of Ezekiel’s vision had walls totaling 18,000 cubits or 6 miles around, while John’s vision of the New Jerusalem has four walls each 12,000 stadia or 1,400 miles long. Which means that each wall will be about as long as the distance from New York City to Oklahoma City. And each wall is just as high as it is long. A giant cube!
Both Temple visions show us that there will be three gates on each of the four city walls. Maps of the original city, show anywhere from 8-12 gates, with the city being a somewhat long, skinny, misshapen oval–not unlike an upside down, mini-Israel. Jerusalem has gone through several different wall building stages in its history. Through the years, gate names included: Dung Gate, Fountain Gate, Water Gate, Horse Gate, East Gate, Master Gate, Sheep Gate, Fish Gate, Old Gate and Valley Gate. Probably so named for the main transport through each.
The New Jerusalem, however, will be a perfect square–perfect being the operative holy standard. Three gates on each wall, like the triune godhead. And the gates will be named for the 12 tribes of Israel, because people have always been the ones whom God intended to enter His gates. The twelve foundations each with an apostles’ name [Acts 1:13 & 26], again showing that heaven is not just for God’s chosen nation, Israel, but for the church as well [Revelation 4:4]. For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord [Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13], who believes on Jesus and Him crucified [John 3:16], whose name is found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 13:8, 20:15 & 21:27], the redeemed, the forgiven will be saved and enter these gates with thanksgiving [Psalm 100:4].
The wall will be high, speaking of the wealth and splendor and might of God. The gates attended by angels–those beings who never faltered in their reverence for and worship of the Most High. Just as everything was perfectly prepared in anticipation for our arrival nearly 6,000 years ago on Day 6 of the Creation [Genesis 1], so is heaven perfectly prepared and ready to receive us back into the arms of our loving Father God [Luke 15:20-24 & 32].
Have you been made new? Will you enter the gates of the New Jerusalem with eternal thanksgiving? Or the lake of fire with eternal lament?