Confessions of the Christ | What Israel was waiting for

Road to Emmaus  by James J. Tissot

Road to Emmaus
by James J. Tissot

I shared a couple of weeks ago that I was working on this topic. I realized that I had gotten sucked into the trap of researching nuggets when in-fact the entirety of the Bible points to Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One. So, this won’t be a singular post type of topic; rather, this is the central issue, the basis of our entire faith. I think the distraction was amplified by a desire to really make an impactful post in time for Easter, but thankfully, everything went wrong on many fronts. Thankfully? Yes. Sometimes things have to go wrong, for us to realize we’ve become too wrapped up in our own devices/plans/schemes/agendas. So, let’s get back to the basics of sharing Bible Studies as often as I can find the time, without worrying so much about “making something” of this blog. Forgive me for losing sight so quickly.

Confessions of the Christ

Our first stop will be the Gospel written by John. Please take a moment now to read John Chapter 1 in its entirety. Remember when we talked about the Sin of the Pharisee, we noted that John the Baptist knew what the Pharisees were getting at when they asked him who he was.

John 1:19-20 (ESV) 19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

So without hesitation, he makes it clear to them that he is not the Christ. Now, when Jesus does step forward, John introduces Jesus to the people in a way that doesn’t fit with what they were looking for in the Christ:

John 1:29 (ESV) The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!…

At this time, sacrifices are a regular occurrence at the Temple. How did they miss this introduction as what is clearly a declaration of Jesus being the atoning sacrifice? They didn’t catch it, because they weren’t looking for it. Let us see what they were looking for:

John 1:30-34 (ESV) 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.

Okay, so here we have a flat-out declaration of Jesus not only being named “The Christ” but now He is plainly declared to be the Son of God. Now, let’s look at the reactions of the early disciples to Him.

John 1:35-51 (ESV) 35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Now, when these two disciples of John the Baptist hear Jesus identified as the “Lamb of God”, they understand that He is the One for whom John the Baptist was preparing them. So they follow Jesus. Here, we have the author explaining that the Hebrew word for “Messiah” is synonymous with the Greek word “Christ”. Neither word is actually translated into English, we’ve simply changed the way they are pronounced. They both translate to “Anointed”, and in the specific case of Jesus, “the Anointed One”. For those who might be new to the faith, or for those who simply have never asked, “Christ” isn’t part of Jesus name, it is a title. We notice also that Nathanael’s response to the news of Jesus was regarding Nazareth. Nazareth is never mentioned in the Law or the Prophets.  They were expecting the Messiah to come from the Bethlehem, the City of David (where Jesus was born). The Jewsish leaders of the day were looking for a descendant of David. Present-day Judaism still holds to these prophesies as indicators of the “end of days”, having missed their fulfillment in Jesus:

Jeremiah 23:5-6 (ESV)  5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Jeremiah 33:14-16 (ESV) 14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ 17 “For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, 18 and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.”

The prophet Isaiah also prophesied regarding Him in a similar phrasing (naturally, since these are the Words of God, not of men):

Isaiah 11:1-5 (ESV) 1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

So we see clearly between the confessions of John the Baptist, and the Prophecies of Jeremiah and Isaiah, that Jesus came as the atoning sacrifice, the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Christ, the Branch of David, who will be called “the Lord is our Righteousness”… this is the Gospel of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. God’s Word is so awesome.

It was not only the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist who were looking for the Christ. As we see in John 4, even the lowly Samaritans where aware of the prophesied Messaiah:

John 4:16-26 (ESV) 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

So awesome. Jesus tells her at the Samaritans (corporate “you”) worship what they do not know. To demonstrate what she does know, she shows us that they, too, were waiting for the Messiah to tell them all things. Samaritans were outsiders. They were of mixed blood and mixed faith, but they looked for the Messiah to come. Praise the Lord God for His faithfulness.

Now then, that we have seen some of what it was the Jews and even the Samaritans were looking for, lets look at Peter’s confession of Jesus.

Matthew 16:13-20 (ESV) 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

This confession is huge. One into which Peter would yet need to grow, but he does by the Grace of God. Notice, that this confession/revelation is not by flesh and blood, but given as a gift from God the Father who is in heaven. This statement bears a strong resemblance to what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8 (ESV) “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…”

Peter was not alone in having to grow into the understanding of just what it meant to confess Jesus as the Christ, Son of the Living God. Martha had a very hard time of it, too when her brother, Lazarus, died.

John 11:17-27 (ESV) 17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

It is on this note, that I’d like to pause for a moment. We all, must come to faith in Jesus as the Christ, Son of the Living God. The Lamb of God who laid down His life as the perfect atonement for the sin of mankind, for our sins included. This faith comes as a Gift from God, that we might die to sin ourselves, so that in Him we might have everlasting life.

Ephesians 4:1-16 (ESV) 1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,and he gave gifts to men.”[Ps 68:18]

9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

In Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, through the working of God the Holy Spirit, we are being woven together, fitted together, into one body. I thank God for each of you who do the hard work of discernment in all things, and in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who has is called “the Lord is our righteousness”. We who are in Christ long for the day of His return, to reign forever as King of kings and Lord of lords. Until that day, let do the work the Lord predestined for us to do in Him, so that when the Master returns, He will find His servants hard at work. Study the Scriptures, Preach the Word, and Love your neighbors as yourselves. Amen.

In Him,

Peter’s first sermon


I tried to find the original of this image for proper citation, if you know the artist or title of this work please inform me.

I’ve made references to Peter’s first sermon a few times in prior posts, and today I thought it would be awesome to take a look at this first sermon preached by Peter. Our text will be Acts 2. If you’ve been following our bible studies here, you should remember that Acts 2 begins with the promise of God the Holy Spirit being poured out on the day of Pentecost. The Day of Pentecost is not a “new testament” thing, it is in-fact a Jewish celebration of the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-22). Pentecost is the Greek word (the fiftieth day) referring to this Hebrew Festival. This festival is particularly important, because it was listed as one of the 3 festivals that all Jewish men were required to appear before the Lord God of Israel (Exodus 34:22-23), which by the time Jesus arrived on the earth, the Lord God had already declared His presence to be made at the Temple in Jerusalem. Therefore, all Jewish men had to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem 3 times a year, one of these times is for the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost (in Greek). Jews from around the world were in Jerusalem to appear before the Lord God of Israel for Pentecost. It is on this day, that the Promise of God the Holy Spirit as spoken by Jesus Christ, was delivered. The first Gift of God the Holy Spirit manifested is the gift of different tongues/languages so that the men from all over the world would hear the Glory of God proclaimed in their native tongues, not just in Galilean Aramaic. So, Peter’s first sermon was not to Gentiles, it was to Jews. Devout, learned Jews who were observing the Feast of Weeks in keeping with the Law of Moses. These were not strangers to the Law or of the Prophets, they were familiar with the Holy Scriptures. However, in their knowledge, the did not recognize Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, the Messiah. So, Peter’s first audience was a tough one. Thank God for His Holy Spirit. Now that we’ve set the stage, let us take a look at his sermon:

Acts 2:14-41 (ESV)

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

I just wanted to take a moment to highlight that Peter is quoting from Joel 2:28-32. This prophecy starts in Joel 1:1 and runs throughout the book of Joel. It is all one prophecy. Peter is quoting the portion that rests between the Lord taking pity on His people, and sitting in Judgment over the nations. These are the last days in which we find ourselves, for the Lord had taken pity upon His creation and gave to us the ultimate sacrifice for the remission of sin, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gift of God. We also await the day of His Glorious return, when He will redeem all who have called upon the Name of the Lord and He will sit in Judgment over creation. Why did Peter go to Joel first? Well, clearly the God the Holy Spirit was giving Peter the words to speak in that very hour (as Jesus told the disciples would happen), but notice the entrance into this sermon comes as a response to the accusations against the manifestation of the Gift of the Holy Spirit as mere drunkenness.  The first visit to Scripture is a clear statement of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as foretold by Joel (who prophesied by the Spirit of God). Peter was also clearly marking the present age, the need for repentance and acceptance of the gift of God and the need to do so before the coming judgement. The book of Joel is not long, and I encourage you to take some time to read through it. However, let us continue for now in Peter’s sermon.

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Amen. Peter points out that the Jews were guilty of putting Jesus to death, by the hands of lawless men (Romans). Once Peter explained in Scriptures that the Jews were witness to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he then moved to identifying Jesus as the Christ. When he quotes from the Psalms of David, he first goes to Psalm 16. I have to be honest, had I read this Psalm without knowing Peter’s interpretation of the Psalm, I wouldn’t have read it as a prophetic Psalm about Jesus. However, Peter makes it clear that since David’s body did see corruption (his body rotted in the grave), it wasn’t about himself that he was speaking; rather, David was referring to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So awesome. The new testament provides us with clear insight into how we should read the old testament to see Jesus (not ourselves, because the bible is not about us).

The next Psalm Peter visits is Psalms 110. Here, however, Peter quotes the introduction to the Psalm. Read the rest of the Psalm, because David is again prophesying of Jesus but he is doing so regarding the Day of Judgement, the Day of Christ’s Return. So, again, we have Peter explaining from scriptures that we find ourselves in the last days, between the salvation of the Lord and His Judgement. Notice, in verse 37, that all who heard these words understood the gravity of what was being taught and their guilt was before them, something they dare not proceed into judgement with, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter’s response is great direct and powerful. He also returns to the initial point of the sermon, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They don’t have to wait, because they (as are we all) are in the last days when the Spirit of God is poured out.

Peter preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the Scriptures, clearly identifies their sin and need of a Savior (these being folks who follow the Law and the Prophets, not a Godless group of people, but one still perishing nonetheless for they have not yet believed in Jesus as the Christ) and then offers them the Way of escape. He also is quick to relay the promise of God the Holy Spirit. The disciples had just received the very gift that Jesus instructed them to wait for and they knew immediately that this Gift was promised to all who believe and are baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

That same Holy Spirit that gave Peter the words to speak, lives within each of us who call upon the Name of the Lord and have our names written in the Lamb’s book of life. We may not move as powerfully in the Holy Spirit, but I think that is due to a lack of knowledge of the Scriptures, and poor discipleship. Peter walked with the Son of God for years. That’s powerful discipleship. We have a great deal of it, but we don’t have all of what Jesus did (John 21:25), so we don’t have the fullness by which the 12 Apostles were taught. Remember in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit is promised to both teach and remind them of all that Jesus had said to them. That is critical for us to have the New Testament written, but also as a promise to us that He will remind us of His Word that we have buried in our hearts (Psalms 119:9-16).

Brothers and sisters, please become life-long students of the Word of God. Pray in the Spirit, always, AND edify your mind by drinking in the written Word of God.  If you look around the web, you’ll see that gallop estimates that 40% of Americans attend church daily. However, a Hartford Institute of Religion study indicates that only half of those are telling the truth. But that is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. If 20% attend church weekly, how much of each service is actually devoted to studying and exegeting properly the Word of God? If the typical Sunday morning service runs from 10:30am to Noon, with the first 45 minutes of a concert, 10 minutes of announcements, intro videos, skits, collecting of tithe/offerings, that leaves roughly 30 minutes for a sermon. Now, what if the sermon is geared more toward sloganeering of a self-help book, or casting the vision of the pastor rather than teaching the text of the Bible? It can become all to easy to lose sight of the Word of God even while conducting the business of church. I pray your church experience is nothing like what I’ve detailed above. Still, even if that 1.5 hrs of Sunday Morning church were devoted to biblical study, it wouldn’t be enough. That is why I am so eager to share what I am studying throughout the week, and am so excited that you are reading here today. Even if you disagree with everything I write, at least you are reading the Word of God that is copy-and-pasted into these posts and hopefully following the external links to bible references. 😉

In closing, I’d like to echo Paul’s benediction from 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (ESV) “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”

In Him,

Context of Christmas: from kings to the King of kings

ImageIf it is fitting that we Christians celebrate the Birth of the Jesus (Christmas), then we should endeavor to do so in Truth, the Word of God. It isn’t enough to simply reject the santaism that competes with the message of Jesus, or the materialism that robs us of our peace and joy and even goodwill toward men. I’d like to devote the next few articles to the wonder of the birth of Jesus. Luke 2 and Matthew 2 are wonderful passages chronicling the birth of our Savior, but I’d like to look at this event as the centerpiece of the bible, rather than simply the beginning of the New Testament. This will be my humble attempt at an overview of the Bible in many ways. As such, I will be using a lot more references to scripture (without including the texts here) than I am accustomed. I pray you will find the time to look up the passages referenced for your edification.

Today, I want to look at the significance of title “King of kings”. It is a title of the ultimate supremacy of God over all of the kings of men, and it is a title specifically worn by Jesus in Revelation 19:

Revelation 19:16 (NASB) 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

In the Beginning, when God created man, His desire was to be with us. He desired to have us freely choose to love Him, and live in His presence. To do so, we simply needed to obey Him (Gen 2:15-18). Adam failed in that regard, seeking rather to be like God knowing both good and evil. God immediately spared man from eternal separation from Him by removing man from the garden (Gen 3:22-24), and promising to make a way for the redemption of man by the seed of woman (Gen 3:15). As an aside, I’d like to point out that the enmity is between Satan and mankind. We too often falsely elevate Satan to being the opposite God. He is merely “in opposition” to God, but by this time he had already been cast out (defeated) by God. He remains a viscous foe only to created beings (men and angels, and the lesser creatures). We know that he opposed Jesus to the cross, at which point Jesus crushed Satan’s head and gained victory over the darkness. A second victory for God, the first victory for man, for He was both fully God and fully man (the seed of woman, but not of man, for He was born of a virgin. Isaiah 7:14, Matt 1:18-25; John 1:1-4,14).

What follows next is a long succession of mankind demonstrating their desire to do evil, all the while God is reaching out to creation to return to Him. Finally, one man finds favor with God and seeks to serve Him faithfully. God makes a covenant with Abraham:

Genesis 17:1-8 (NASB)
1 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him,
“I am God Almighty;
Walk before Me, and be blameless.
2 “I will establish My covenant between Me and you,
And I will multiply you exceedingly.”
3 Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying,
4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you,
And you will be the father of a multitude of nations.
5 “No longer shall your name be called Abram,
But your name shall be Abraham;
For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. 7 I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. 8 I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

Notice that God’s promise is to be the God of Abraham’s decedents. Kings will come from him, and a multitude of nations, but God promises He will be their God “throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant”. Again, God’s purpose remains to be our God and to make us fruitful. This takes place roughly 2100 years BC. So then we have Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (whose name gets changed to Israel in Gen 32:28). This whole time, there are other peoples who worship false gods and have their own kings. God uses Egypt to preserve Israel through a terrible famine, but the Children of Israel tarry too long in their comfort under Pharaoh… a situation that declines rapidly once Joseph dies and a new Pharaoh chooses to treat Israel harshly. And so, God raises up a leader (Moses) from among them, raised within the very house of Pharoah until his exile… an exile where Moses meets God in a burning bush (Exodus 3), and is called by God to rescue God’s chosen people, the children of Israel. God identifies Himself as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He was moving mightily to rescue Israel and honor the covenant. In Exodus 12, God delivers Israel out of Egypt, just as Jesus’ sacrifice delivers us from the kingdom of darkness (1 Cor 5:7; Heb 11:25-28). The exodus beings in roughly 1446 BC.

But Israel would have a terrible time walking in freedom. The generation that was pulled out of Egypt just couldn’t let go of Egypt, it’s rulers or its gods, and for their sin God had to wait for the next generation to lead them into the promised land. Joshua follows God (and so leads Israel) into the promised land… but Israel failed to follow God completely, and as soon as Joshua dies, they chase after false gods and marry foreigners. And so begins a period of raising up judges to rescue Israel from oppression, only to see a period of piece, followed by sin and its consequential oppression once more (the book of Judges and 1 Samuel).

So it continues until the time of Samuel. The story of Samuel is awesome, but that’s for another time. Though Samuel served God faithfully, his sons did not. Samuel appointed his sons as judges over Israel, and they fell into sin, seeking dishonest gain and taking bribes for perverting justice (1 Sam 8). It is at this point that the elders of Israel came to Samuel and demanded that he appoint a king to judge over Israel. This greatly troubled Samuel.

Here in the U.S., we are far removed from having a king. We have a veritable pantheon of elected officials to whom we give great power over us, but we do not have a solid concept of a king. The Israelites had over them the priests, judges, and prophets. Each office was a position of authority over the people of Israel; however, the seat of their authority was firmly established in God. The priests, prophets, and judges were advocates of the people to God. A king is something different. What the Israelites were saying was that they no longer wanted to be judged and ruled over by God or His advocates, they wanted to carve out their own identity, have their own kingdom, patterned more after the kingdoms around them that served false gods. So God gave them over to their desire for a king, with a strong warning of what would come of it (read the remainder of 1 Sam 8). Saul becomes the first king of Israel in roughly 1050 BC.

When Saul sins against God, the Lord leads Samuel to anoint David as King. Now David being a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) serves God mightily and wanted to build for God a Temple. God denies his request (1 Chr 28:3) but David gathers up materials for the Temple that would be built later by Solomon in roughly 970 BC.

1 Chronicles 28:6-7(NASB) 6 [God] said to [David], ‘Your son Solomon is the one who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be a son to Me, and I will be a father to him. 7 I will establish his kingdom forever if he resolutely performs My commandments and My ordinances, as is done now.’ (emphasis mine)

Solomon did not keep God’s commandments, and as a result, he was the last king over a unified Israel. Israel was split into 2 kingdoms, “Israel” to the north, and “Judah” to the south. Jerusalem, where the Temple was built, remained the capital city of Judah, and Samaria became the capital of Israel. In 722 BC, the Assyrians invaded Israel and scattered its tribes in exile. These are known as the lost tribes of Israel, because they never again returned to the land of Israel as a people. Their final king was Hosea. Judah lasts a bit longer until approximately 586 BC, when Babylon takes Jerusalem and destroys the Temple. King Nebuchadnezzar takes as captive “some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 1:3b-4). But not all of Israel was taken to Babylon. Those that remained, suffered greatly. Without a king, without their nobles, best craftsmen leaders, intellectuals… they were left to starve and fend for themselves. The book of Lamentation was written in Judah during the Exile.

Now Cyrus, a Persian king, had conquered all of the kingdoms. The book of Ezra picks begins with a proclemation made by Cyrus:

Ezra 1:1-4 (NASB)
1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying:
2 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 Every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.’”

Cyrus was a Zoroastrian, so in his mind, he was simply supporting all “good gods” in the epic struggle against the “evil gods”. Aside: How awesome is it that God can use and has used pagans and pantheists to work His Will! But God used Cyrus and the Persian empire to not only put an end to the Exile, but to commission the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple using Persian funding! Ezra and Nehemiah cover the rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem. This second temple is dedicated in roughly 516 BC, but Israel does not regain its independence, only it’s Temple and its identity under Persian rule. Alexandar the Great defeats the Persian empire, and the Greeks then rule over Jerusalem beginning roughly 333 BC. The Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes reigned over Judah from about 175 BC to about 164 BC and tried to destroy the Jewish religion and copies the Torah. He also defiled the Temple in Jerusalem by making it a temple to Zeus and demanding pigs be sacrificed within the temple (Daniel 11:31-35). The Maccabees revolted and gained some independence until  the Romans took over in 63 BC.

Now the stage is set. The throne of David seems all but abandoned. Israel is but a shadow of what it once was. For nearly 400 years now, the Prophets have been silent… and the people are looking for a Messiah. When the Romans took over, they placed Herod as governor over Jerusalem. He commissioned many an architectural wonder in expanding the Temple Mount (actually enlarging the mountain around the Temple, we’ll discuss this in greater detail later). But many Jews suffered under Herod. He would appoint High Priests in the Temple of his choosing, and should any of them disagree with Herod, He’d remove them and place another. Israel, wanted to be made free. This is why the message of Jesus was so completely difficult for the Jews to accept… especially for those who recognized Him as possibly the Christ:

John 10:22-24 (NASB) 22 At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. 24 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Now that we have established a historical and biblical context for the birth of Jesus, in the next blog I plan on looking at some of the really cool statements made in the Luke and Matthew accounts of the birth of our Savior. We will be looking at prophecies from Daniel and Isaiah for sure. In the meantime, I hope this has been at least interesting for some of you.

May the Lord bless and keep you in His Will,


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