First Samuel 9 begins: “There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish….Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.”
Israel had insisted on an earthly king. God had told Samuel to listen to them, but not without first giving them a serious warning. Samuel said that a king would conscript their sons for military service and their daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. He warned that the king would take from the best of their fields and crops and from their livestock and flocks. He warned that the day would come when they would realize the error of their ways and when they would cry out. He warned that their choice would have permanent consequences, and God would not answer.
Israel chose a human path. They wanted to be like the pagan nations around them. And so it began. Continue reading
Samuel was aging. The elders in Israel saw that Samuel’s sons were not like him. They demanded a king to lead them. They wanted a leader. They wanted to be like other nations. First Samuel 8:5 records their request: “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
Samuel inquired of God. God told him to warn the people: it would not go well for them, and they would be subjected and conscripted. The elders and people would not listen to Samuel’s warning and insisted that they wanted a king. Continue reading
My wife and I have been married for 43 years. God is good! In that time, I have never become fully accustomed to her packing. A small suitcase is never sufficient. Clothes are piled on the bed and then sorted. The bedroom floor is covered with shoes. Sorting follows. The selection then begins. And eventually her suitcase is packed and mine is there for the things that don’t fit in hers.
Can you imagine the packing frenzy in Egypt on Passover Day? Israel had been foreigners in the land for 400 years, and God was about to deliver them. Moses told them to get ready for a mass exodus. While faith in God and his prophet Moses motivated them, consider the practical aspect.
Imagine the stress. There had been nine plagues, and Pharaoh reneged on each promise to let them go. Why would #10 be different? Continue reading
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. Matthew 2: 1-3
Why was all of Jerusalem disturbed? Continue reading
Who is Jesus? Perhaps that is an easier question to answer than “Who were the magi?” They seem to be misfits to the story of the birth of Jesus. Their late arrival on the Jerusalem and Bethlehem scene doesn’t place them either in the birth story or at the manger.
“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route” (Matthew 2: 9-12). Continue reading
Who is Jesus? No one had more to risk in the answer to this question than did Herod. Every good story needs a villain. Herod is a cruel and vile one.
“Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him” (Matthew 2: 7-8). Continue reading
In a quiet moment as you reflect back on Christmas Eve night or Christmas morning, may your thoughts lead you to a cave on a Judean hillside.
A Shepherd’s Cave on a Judean hillside
It is dark inside. It contains the foul odors of manure and extinguished camp fires. In such a place a baby was born. He came to be the Light of the World. He was born to die that we might have life. He removed the darkness and stench of our sins by willingly submitting to a horrible death on a cross. He rose again. King of kings; Lord of lords. May your Christmastime be filled with glory to God and gratitude for Jesus!
The angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2: 14)
It is the season of year when God’s people celebrate. Peace, joy, and hope came to earth in the gift of Jesus.
My wife and I have many friends at Bethlehem Bible College. We have been blessed by their friendship and hospitality. We have used their facilities for orientation sometimes. We have volunteered there painting dorm rooms and helping as needed. We sometimes stop by with our group to hear their story and visit their campus and shop.
Last week classes at the college were ending for the semester and a small group of ESL students gathered for a party to celebrate. The ESL teacher is an American. As we do in North America, everyone brought sweet treats. There was one assignment for the day – “talk about your dreams”. Continue reading
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’.” Luke 2: 13-14 Continue reading
“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Continue reading