Category Archives: Bible Study

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Psalm 37:4 Devotional – Delight and Write

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

Background
Psalm 37 is written by King David in his older years. He has been through a lot. In David’s life journey, he went from unseen shepherd boy to giant-slayer to man-on-the-run to King of Israel, appointed by God himself. We are blessed today because under inspiration of the Holy Spirit David recorded many of his thoughts and experiences related to God throughout his journey.

We can imagine a Grandpa saying, “Sonny, come here. I have a few things to teach you about life. I have been doing this life thing for a while. I have made some mistakes but learned a lot and I want you to benefit from my wisdom”. This Psalm and others like it have been used by the Jewish people to teach the faith and encourage the people since Bible times.

Psalm 37 joins a group of other Psalms classified as Wisdom Psalms Didactic (teaching) Psalms. In Hebrew, they are called the hokmah. They often sound like the Proverbs as they use the same language. Their primary purpose is to teach foundational life lessons to the hearer.

David here wants to teach us how to live a holy life, pleasing to God and fruitful in light of living in a world of wickedness and dealing with the assaults of evil.

So what is David teaching us in this Psalm?

To Delight in the Lord

Delight here means to take great pleasure in. It is written as a command. The Hebrew root includes the meaning of “pamper or refresh oneself; “ (Brannan, R. (Ed.). (2020). Lexham Research Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.)

We hear a lot in our culture about how we as women are to pamper and refresh ourselves. The Lord showed me long ago that one of the most refreshing, pampering ways I can spend my time is in sitting with him in prayer or Bible study. I need more of those times in my life!

My Question for reflection- you can make it yours too- do we take as great pleasure in spending time with God, getting to know him, listening to him as we do:

  1. A luxurious, unrushed hot shower
  2. A scrumptious, gourmet, well-prepared meal
  3. A drink of cool water on a hot day
  4. Spending time in nature
  5. Going to a spa to get a manicure or pedicure

I had to seriously ask myself these questions. I came up with the answer. No, I don’t. Not enough. Yes, sometimes I have that experience when I get up extra early and spend what seems like a lot of time just listening to God, researching rabbit trails, taking my time, not feeling rushed. But I realized it was not nearly enough. God was calling me to focus more on this idea of delighting in him.

How can I delight in an unseen God as much as I delight in these things that bombard my senses with such good experiences? How can I delight in a God who is Spirit while I am sitting here in a very physical house on a very physical planet? I had to go in search of this answer.

Using my tried and true foundational triad for my life as a Christian- Prayer, Bible Study and fellowship, I searched and researched.

I learned something very profound.

In my delight, I am to desire GOD with all my heart. And when I desire God with al my heart, take great pleasure in him, find my refreshment in him, God will answer my desire and give me more of himself. He will increase my delight in him the more I want of him! He will give me more of HIM the more I want of him.

Once my focus of delight is on the Lord, all my other desires will flow from my fellowship with my Lord and Savior. I will only want that which he wants. God will give me all the desires of my heart, first and foremost his very presence, when I focus my delight in him.

Once I realized this answer, that my greatest delight should be in God himself, the next question I had was, “Is this even possible?”

No. It is impossible to delight in and desire God as much as I long for luxurious, pampering physical experiences. But what is impossible with man is possible with God. God will complete this work he began in us. We will grow from glory to glory (“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB).)

How will this happen? Through prayer and petition, God gives us to “will and to do for his good pleasure.”

  1. We must often remind ourselves of God’s presence in our lives. Be like David, excited and confident that the Lord’s presence is with us.
  2. Take time to delight in God. Spend unrushed time with him. When you delight is someone, find pleasure in them, it’s hard to leave their presence. Be intentional in taking time to meditate on and sit with this amazing concept that the Creator of all things, the Holy One, delights in your presence.
  3. Seek him and call on him because that is what he desires of you.
  4. Remember what God has done- for you, for his people throughout history, for those you know
  5. Remember who God is- creator, protector, provider, judge
  6. Give him praise and thanks
  7. Testify of his goodness

So before we ask God to give us the desires of our hearts as it concerns our writing, let’s ask him to help us desire HIM more than anything. Once we do that, the prayers we have, our desires regarding our writing, will be pleasing to God and he will be pleased to answer them.

When we make God first, we avoid the idols of happiness.

“Whatsoever we make necessary for our contentment, we make lord of our happiness.”

Alexander Maclaren, expository preacher, 1826-1910

Prayer
God, help us to delight in you more than anything else. Help us to spend time intentionally delighting in you even as we attend the Writer’s Retreat this weekend. Show us what it means to truly delight in you. Give us the will to want to delight in you. Align our desires with yours as we seek to serve you and live out the calling on our lives you have revealed to us. Amen.

Simeon and Jesus

And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word;

Luke 2:25-29 NKJV

Portrait of a Prophet

This is not a good time for Israel. Like in their time of bondage in Egypt, God seems to have forgotten them. He doesn’t seem to see their suffering at the hand of the oppressive Romans. Or if he sees, God seems not to care. Where is the promised salvation? Will Messiah ever come?

No Angels Needed

Simeon remembers. He has been waiting in joyful hope. A devoted Jew, he was blessed by a revelation from the Holy Spirit. It was revealed to him that the Messiah, the “Consolation of Israel”, would come to God’s people in his lifetime. Yes, he was old, old enough to die a natural death. Yet he knew he would not die before Messiah came to rescue his people. So he waited. Probably, he looked for a royal procession or armies led by a successful general to fulfill the prophecy. No angel had to come and proclaim hope to him. The Holy Spirit already spoke to him.

The Spirit Stays

The same Spirit who gave Simeon the revelation about the coming of Christ now directs Simeon to the temple. Mary and Joseph arrived at the temple with baby Jesus to find Simeon waiting for them. Simeon, still filled with the Holy Spirit, recognizes Jesus as the fulfillment of the revelation he was given.

James Tissot, The Presentation
James Tissot, The Presentation

Blessing and Honor Given

Simeon reacted to the presence of Jesus, promise fulfilled, in the only way he could, by thanking and praising God. God was true to his word! How sweet it is to wait patiently for the Lord, confident that he will come through, and have his promises fulfilled! Simeon recognized how privileged he was to hold the Savior in his arms. He must have felt such peace and joy!

Key Verse

he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

Luke 2:28 NKJV

Have you accepted Jesus and blessed God for his wonderful gift?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus. You sent your only Son to earth to be our Consolation, our Savior. Help us to live in gratitude and remember this great truth everyday but especially this Christmas. Amen.

Jesus is Named & Presented

And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord ” ), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Luke 2:21-24 NKJV

Bridging the Gap

Circumcision

Jesus’ life represents movement from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. He lived, died and was resurrected to usher in a new way for us to have forgiveness of our sins. The temple curtain will be torn, the veil between God and man destroyed. The law of Moses is fulfilled through Jesus. His participation in Mosaic legal requirements is the beginning of this role. Now, reigning at the right hand of the Father, the risen Jesus completely fulfills the role of high priest, see Hebrews 8.

Continue reading Jesus is Named & Presented

Shepherds Visit Baby Jesus

And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

Luke 2:16-20 NKJV

Receiving Visitors

Mary and Joseph, after their long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, were unable to find a proper place to stay. Instead, they are in a stable area with the animals of the household. In this uncomfortable arrangement, Mary’s time comes and she gives birth to Jesus.

Continue reading Shepherds Visit Baby Jesus

Glory to God in the Highest

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Luke 2:11-15 NKJV

Angelic Visitation

In keeping with the perspective of common people God inspired Luke to write about, we learn about common, lowly shepherds being given privileged information. To them is proclaimed the fulfillment of prophecy- The Anointed One, The Christ, is here! The Savior, promised by God and his prophets many years ago, is here! This announcement must have confused them. They knew the Christ would be from the line of David, so the city of David made sense. But why is a baby the sign? Could the Anointed One be a baby, lying in a feeding trough, a manger?

Continue reading Glory to God in the Highest

A Humble Birth

Jesus is Born in Bethlehem

“So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”

Luke 2:6–10, NKJV

An Arrival with Startling Humility

A back room with the animals. A rough feeding trough fit for animals. Simple cloths to protect a new life. This is how the Savior of all, the King of Kings, made his grand entrance into the world.

Continue reading A Humble Birth

Zechariah’s Prophecy, Part 3

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Luke 1:76-80 NKJV

Luke’s Details

Luke gives us more information about Mary and Zechariah than any other Gospel. His account includes details not found elsewhere in the Bible. This corresponds to what Luke stated at the beginning of his narrative. He promised to shed light on “all things from the very first”. Luke seems to have firsthand information from sources like Mary and Zechariah so that these beautiful songs are preserved for us today. Did they make you feel more certain about what you believe as Luke stated he desired for his readers?

Salvation

John’s message would be one of the necessity of salvation because of the sins of the people and the provision of salvation through Jesus Christ. John’s words were both challenging and comforting. It is because of the great mercy of God towards his people (literally translated “bowels of mercy”) that he saves. God loved the world so much that he sent his son Jesus to earth for our salvation. (John 3:16)

Although the word for salvation can have the sense of health or wellness, in this case, the fact that salvation is spiritual and not just political or physical is alluded to as Zechariah describes the role of remission of sins.

Breakthrough

Dayspring. A word we don’t use anymore but it is a picture of dawn. Dawn is daylight springing forth from darkness. The word in Greek, anatole, means “east”. It is used to convey the sun rising in the east as in the dawn. Interestingly, the ancient Jewish Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek translated the Messianic word Branch as anatole. Why? Possibly because both have the sense of a Messiah “breaking forth” or “breaking out”. The sun breaks out into the sky at daybreak and a branch breaks out from the root. Both metaphors reflect the breaking into human history of a deliverer and redeemer, Jesus.

Greek scholar Bill Mounce writes that the compass direction of orientation in the ancient Near East in the time of Jesus was east just as we use north in compasses today. Jesus, our Savior, Redeemer and King, comes from the exalted direction, the east. This Dayspring is also Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus graced the world with his presence for us!

Jesus didn’t come quietly or in a subtle way. The whole world was irrevocably changed when Jesus came on the scene in human form, as a helpless baby. He broke into our humanity with its sin, shame and death, to bring light. The light of Jesus is the glorious light of salvation.

Jesus in his own words confirmed Zechariah’s prophecy. He spoke of being light. “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”” John 8:12, NKJV

Luke in writing about the Dayspring also brings to mind the vigorous and victorious image given to us by the prophet Malachi:

“But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves.” Malachi 4:2, NKJV

Zechariah’s words echo Isaiah’s prophecy (also repeated in Matthew 4:16):

“The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.” Isaiah 9:2, NKJV

The light of Isaiah’s prophecy looks forward to our great hope in Jesus.

Prepare a Way in the Desert

John’s father summarizes his childhood in the final verse of this section. John grew spiritually as well as physically during this time. Zechariah tells us that John was in the desert until the start of his public ministry. This fulfilled what the prophet Isaiah said:

The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

“Prepare the way of the LORD;

Make straight in the desert

A highway for our God.

Is 40:3 NKJV

Key Verse

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” NLT Luke 1:78-79

Prayer

Heavenly Father, We thank you for the glorious light of Jesus, the one who came to earth to save us and redeem us! Thank you for faithful prophets like John the Baptist and his father Zechariah who led the way for you. Fill us with fresh wonder about the miracle of Jesus being a born a baby, fully human and fully man, to live among us. What a wonderful, precious gift! Amen.

Zechariah’s Prophecy 1: Day 14

“Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David, As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began,”

Luke 1:67–70, NKJV
The Prophecy of Zacharias (Zechariah)

We see again a strong theme of Luke, that of the power and work of the Holy Spirit in God’s people. Through the Holy Spirit, Zacharias speaks here of Jesus, the son of Mary, not his son John. The Holy Spirit showed the elderly father the promise of Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, another theme in Luke as he seeks to make his readers certain of what they have learned. Zacharias learned firsthand of the holiness of God through the miraculous birth of his son. Now, he will proclaim this truth to all the congregation.

So begins an exuberant praise song of Zacharias, the first words he is able to utter since being struck mute at his meeting with the Angel Gabriel at the altar. This prophetic song is known by its Latin name which is derived from the first word, Benedictus, which means “Blessed be”. The Benedictus is one of three songs found in the beginning of Luke. The other two are Mary’s Magnificat and Simeon’s song. All three are prophetic revelations encased in praise.

In this case, we imagine a man who for 9 months or more has been unable to speak one word because of his doubt of Gabriel’s proclamation that Elizabeth would have a baby at her advanced age. Now the baby, John the Baptist, is here and Zacharias obeyed God in naming the baby John. His ability to speak comes back and with it a praise-filled prophecy tumbles forth out of his long silent mouth.

He blesses God for:

  1. Visiting his people
  2. Redeeming his people
  3. Raising up a salvation from the house of David
  4. Fulfilling the word of the prophets of old

Key Verse

““Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people,” (Luke 1:68, NKJV)

The godly priest realizes that God has begun the work of coming among and redeeming his people. Jesus is to be born as a baby and called Immanuel, God With Us. Redemption is coming through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior! He was born as a humble baby, died as a suffering servant and rose as a victor!

Lord, We praise you and we thank you for sending your Son Jesus to live among us and redeem us. Through him came the salvation of the whole world and there can be no better gift! Help us to proclaim this joyous news to others especially during this Christmas season. Amen.

Zechariah Joins Elizabeth in Naming John: Day 13

And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, “What kind of child will this be?” And the hand of the Lord was with him. Luke 1:63-66 NKJV

A Second Chance

God gives people a chance to repent of sin, make up for a wrong deed or bad decision. Zechariah sinned against God by doubting him. God then made him unable to speak. Now, Zechariah is given again the opportunity to obey God in faith. This time, he acts in accordance to God’s will. He says that the child must be named John as the angel commanded. We can act like God in our relationships. When a child, spouse or friend wrongs us, we can choose to stay in unforgiveness or anger or we can give the person a chance to try again and do better. That’s called grace. God gave it to Zechariah and he lavishly gives it to you and me. We should be generous in giving this grace to others.

Overflow of the Heart

God knows our hearts. But actions demonstrate to a watching world who God is through those who worship him. Zechariah’s repentance and obedience were seen by the congregation of the faithful although his sin was before Gabriel and God only. Once Zechariah’s heart changed to faith and obedience, his public actions reflected his repentance. God then enabled Zechariah to speak. Through this episode, Zechariah has seen firsthand the power, majesty and mercy of God. His lips must praise the God who makes all speech possible. He can not restrain his praise. The praise of his heart ❤️ overflowed to his lips and God was glorified in the presence of the people.

The Encouragement of Praise

When God redeems is, picks us up and puts us back on the right path, all we can do is offer praise for his great mercy and love. Zechariah praises God with the voice God gives him. All the people see God’s power in this miracle and are encouraged and blessed by the praise flowing from Zechariah.

Let us take time often to praise God in the midst of others, especially when he delivers us. It will encourage and strengthen our fellow believers and can even bring souls to God.

Key Verse

And the hand of the Lord was with him. Luke 1:66(b)

The hand of the Lord is with you. His mighty outstretched hand upholds you. When you stumble like Zechariah did, God will lift you up. God’s hand protects, provides and comforts. Guidance and discipline are in the loving hand of God. Praise God for not withdrawing his hand from us!

Prayer

Lord, Thank you for never leaving us or forsaking us. We praise you for your mighty strength and power and wisdom. With your hand you uphold the world. Yours are the hands that held back the Red Sea for Moses and we thank you for your hands clearing the path and making a way for us today. Help us to boldly obey you in faith knowing that your hand is always with us. Amen.

John the Baptist is Born, the People Rejoice

“Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.””

(Luke 1:57–60, NKJV)

God’s Mercy and Faithfulness

God’s promise as given through the angel Gabriel is fulfilled in our first verse today showing God’s faithfulness. God used this miracle birth to strengthen the faith of the others in Elizabeth’s life. Once they heard of the childless, older woman giving birth, they knew that God’s miracle was the cause. God’s miracles are a sign of his mercy. Using the same word for “magnify” Mary used in the Magnificat, this verse tells us the Lord magnified his mercy to Elizabeth. An always merciful God showed great grace and mercy to Elizabeth. 

Rejoice With One Another

The miracle of the birth of John caused those around her to come and rejoice with Elizabeth. Similarly, once we focus on on God’s great mercy to us, especially in sending Jesus to die for our sins, we feel like rejoicing. Such unmerited favor shown to us by the Creator of all the world is cause for joy! What a privilege to rejoice with other believers as we testify about what the Lord has done for us. This is not a private event to be hidden from Elizabeth’s community but a time of proclaiming the mercy of God and celebrating a renewal of faith as all celebrate the blessing being given to one. 

A Public Life 

John will spend much of his life in public ministry. His life will not be his own but will be dedicated to the service of the Lord. The beginning of his life reflects this truth. Friends and relatives are gathered together for the beginning of John’s life, a life that points to our Savior Jesus. Elizabeth’s joy goes beyond her happiness at having a longed-for child late in life. She rejoices because God is going to fulfill his promises to Israel for a Savior and a King soon.

What’s in a Name?

Much is made of the naming of John in this passage. In the Old Testament, naming was a significant rite with religious significance. Names given by God were recognized as a special gift and especially meaningful. God gave new names as a sign of his new work in someone’s heart and life. In the New Testament, God gives us names as followers of Jesus Christ. We are overcomers, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, sons of God and a new creation in Christ among others. Remembering God’s names for us helps us to live in our true identity in Christ and reject names that God does not have for us.

Key Verse

When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. Luke 1:58 (NKJV)

Prayer

Lord, Thank you for your faithfulness and promises fulfilled! You are still a mighty, miracle-working God and we praise you and give you honor and glory. Thank you for the miracle you did for Elizabeth that showed your great mercy to her just as you showed great mercy to us by sending Jesus to die for the forgiveness of our sins. Continue to grow us in the grace and knowledge of your Word. Amen.

Magnificat 2: Day 11

He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

Luke 1:51-56 (NKJV)
Artist James Tissot

Humility Relies on God’s Strength

Mary prophetically declares the teachings of her son, Jesus. Those who follow him are to be servants, not lords. Jesus warned his followers not to seek the best seats at a feast or desire public honor for religious duties. New Testament writers emphasized these teachings of their Master, Jesus. Echoing Mary, they write that if we humble ourselves before God, he will lift us up. James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:5-6

God’s Kingdom is Not What We Expect

In our world, the rich and mighty are strong and rule. The lowly are ruled over and live in want. God rules his Kingdom differently. The rich are scattered, the mighty are cast down. God fills the hungry Psalm 107:9 and lifts the low into high places Matthew 23:12. He helps those who serve him. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble James 4:6. Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Savior of the whole world, will be born to a peasant girl in the country among the animals. Nothing will be ever be the same.

God’s Promises Remembered, Soon to be Fulfilled

Mary knows God’s Word so she knows the story of Abraham and his covenant with God. God promised salvation to the world through Abraham and his seed, Israel. These promises are to be fulfilled in Jesus. It is because of God’s great mercy that he helps his people. Mary sings with gratitude for God’s remembrance of her and all of Israel. When Mary looked around at her earthly life, oppression under harsh Roman rule, a subsistence farming life that barely provided for her needs and was subject to times of lack, things did not look good. It was easy to think that God had forgotten Israel and his promises to them. But Mary knew differently. In faith, she believed what the angel told her. Incredible, yes. Impossible, no. Mary trusted that God was about to do a new thing. She joyfully sang and praised the Lord for what he was soon to do.

God’s Strength and Mercy

Mary continues with her theme of God’s strength and limitless power. She recognizes God as the ruler of all. She also speaks of God being merciful, helping those who serve him. The two traits come together in our mighty yet loving Father. He is strong enough to strike down enemies yet loves enough to rescue those who humble themselves before him. 

Key Verse

He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy. 

Luke 1:54

Prayer

Lord, Thank you for your mercy to us. We do not deserve all that you do for us except that we live by faith in Jesus. Thank you for giving us the righteousness of Christ and recognizing his sacrifice on our behalf. Because of Jesus, we are saved! Help us to humble ourselves and resist pride as we rely on you to lift us up. Give us a heart to praise and worship you with our eyes to heaven, not on our circumstances. Amen.

Mary Learns of Elizabeth’s Pregnancy: Day 8

“Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.”

(Luke 1:36–40, NKJV)
Mary’s Journey to Elizabeth

Comfort and Confirmation

Continuing with Luke’s theme of God doing the impossible, the angel Gabriel informs Mary of Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy. In doing so, he confirms that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the all-powerful miracle-working God who is getting ready to usher in a new era. Remember, Luke’s Gospel emphasizes the miracles of Jesus more than the other Gospels. We see this emphasized from the beginning of Luke’s narrative. It is only in Luke that we find this account.

Geographic Context

The O in AROMA stands for Orient. It is important to consider different types of contexts as e study the Bible. Geography is one type of context we can consider that adds to our understanding of a verse or passage.

Mary lived in Nazareth, a small, insignificant town in Galilee. Galileans were not respected among other Jews because they lived in proximity to Gentiles. Contrast this to where Mary is going, to Judah, the most important and exalted region for all Jews. Luke, in one of his themes that we discussed earlier, highlights God’s love and care for those who are considered low and outsiders. 

Mary journeys to visit Elizabeth. She goes with haste and the Greek word means “earnestly or with great concern”. I imagine that Mary was excited to share her testimony of God’s announcement through the angel Gabriel. In fact, she probably suspected that no one else would believe her but her cousin who had been similarly blessed by God. She was likely also looking forward to hearing from Elizabeth about her happy surprise and what God had done in her life. What a joy it is to celebrate God’s goodness with other believers! 

Mary had a far distance to travel to get to her kinswoman, Elizabeth, but she was determined to go and go quickly. The approximately 81 mile journey was an uphill one. It would have taken Mary 9 or 10 days to arrive at the home of Elizabeth. I imagine she set out on her journey, hopeful that God would provide for her and protect her on her way. She likely spent much of her time pondering all the angel revealed to her, wondering what she would find at her kinswoman’s home. God was faithful to devour her safely on her journey as we will see in our next lesson. 

Read: Parallel Translations 

One of the tools in the Read Engagement Point of The AROMA Approach to Bible Study is reading the verse in multiple translations. In this case, I used the Text Comparison Tool from Logos Bible Software and discovered something interesting.

Luke 1:37

NASB95 “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

NIV For no word from God will ever fail.”

ESV For nothing will be impossible with God.”

NLT For the word of God will never fail.”

NKJV For with God nothing will be impossible.”

KJV 1900 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

LEB For nothing will be impossible with God.”

ASV 1901 For no word from God shall be void of power.

From the Text Comparison Tool, Logos Bible Software

What’s in a word? Mary’s affirmation of Gabriel’s announcement of God’s plan for her life is made more striking when we understand the precise word she used. Mary used the exact word that Gabriel used when he stated that God’s Word will not fail. This translation of “with God nothing will be impossible”, the most literal although perhaps not the most poetic, underscores Mary’s agreement with God through the angel.

The angel–  For no word from God will ever fail.” v. 37 (NIV)

Mary– “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. v. 38 (NIV)

Relationship 

Gabriel, acting for the Lord, used the miracle of Elizabeth’s pregnancy to reassure Mary and remind her of God’s miracle-working power. If God did it for Elizabeth, surely he could do one for Mary. It is in this way that the stories of Bible encourage us today. When we look at God’s mighty works in the Bible and throughout history, we build our faith. The Bible tells us many times to remember all that God has done. God knows we are likely to forget and need to remind ourselves, our children and one another of the power of God to do beyond what we could ask or imagine. He often works through our relationships and fellowship with other believers to remind us of who he is and who we are in Christ.

Response

Humble obedience describes Mary’s response to this strange, unsettling encounter with the Angel Gabriel. She recognized who she was, a “maidservant of the Lord”, because she recognized who God was. The only response to the holiness of God is humility. Remember Isaiah said he was a “man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5 ) and Peter said “depart from me for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8) when confronted with the holiness of God. Obedience flows from fear of the Lord and humility. Mary had both abundantly. Mary agreed with God. She fully submitted her will to God. 

Key Verse

 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1: 38 (NKJV)

The second A in the AROMA Approach represents agree, the most important part of any Bible study. This verse is a beautiful example of humble obedience to our Holy God. It is an excellent verse to meditate on and/or memorize.

Prayer

Lord, we humble ourselves before you. Take our lives and may your will be done. Help us to submit to you and obey you in all decisions, big and small. Give us faith to move forward in the journeys you appoint for us. Amen.

Names and Roles of Jesus: Day 7

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

(Luke 1:31–35, NKJV)

Jesus is given several names in this passage. Let’s do a visual verse analysis to emphasize this. 

AROMA Approach Arrange Visual Verse Analysis

The Name That Saves

  1. JESUS is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Joshua. The name means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation” (Lexham Bible Dictionary)
  2. Son of the Highest- in some translations called the Most High, is a name for God, Yahweh, see also Ps 21:7; Acts 7:48.
  3. Son of God- this restatement of “Son of the Highest” follows the reason why Jesus will be called the Son of God. He will be born from the Holy Spirit and God coming upon her. Gabriel leaves no doubt that this child will be the Son of God.

The Role of King

His role in eternity is also described. He will be the King of kings in contrast to his earthly ancestor David. David was great but Jesus will be greater. David died, ending his reign as king. Our King Jesus will live into all eternity and his rule and reign will never end. The angel’s declaration of the Kingship of Jesus is the fulfillment of several Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah (2 Sa 7:16; Ps 89:3, 4; Isa 9:7; Jer 33:17; Da 2:44; 7:14, 27; Mic 4:7; Heb 1:8). One of these is in Isaiah 9:7 gives us a good example of the kingdom propephecy-

Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

The Work of the Spirit

It is no surprise that Gabriel announces it will be the Holy Spirit along with the power of Yahweh who will accomplish the miracle of conception. Both were present at the creation of the heavens and the earth at the beginning. John says Jesus was present at the beginning of Creation (John 1:1) so it is fitting for his entry Into the world to live as man on earth will be accomplished in this way.

Key Verse

““How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”” (Luke 1:34, NIV)

Mary asks an obvious question that you or I would have asked in her situation. The angel of the Lord has pronounced what seems to be impossible. Did he not know that she was a virgin? Does he not understand basic human biology and how women become conceive?

How many times have you and I reacted with such questions to God? I admit, for me it has been too many times. Often I forget that God can do the impossible. He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Why should I doubt what a God like this can do? I don’t know why but I do that I have a God who loves me and will patiently remind me who he is and how much he loves me. His answer to my questions is always “I will do it by my Spirit and my power” just as the Angel Gabriel explained to Mary.

Prayer

Lord, help us to remember that you are an all-powerful God who loves us more than we can imagine. Bless us with confidence in you and who you are as we read these wonderful stories in Luke. May our faith in your ability to do the impossible be strengthened as we study your Word. Amen.

Flowers and Faith-Jesus Over Fear Series-Luke 12:27–28

““Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!”

Luke 12:27–28, NIV

Jesus gave this series of teachings in Luke Chapter 12 on his way to Jerusalem. We can imagine that he passed meadows of wildflowers on his way. He may have referred to the scene as he elaborated on his admonition not to worry but to trust in God’s provision.

Continue reading Flowers and Faith-Jesus Over Fear Series-Luke 12:27–28

Jesus: You and Your Enemies (Part 3 of my series on Dealing With Enemies)

Confused or surprised that enemies are coming against you?Jesus said that his followers will have enemies in this world. His prophetic words came true for his first followers, most of whom were martyred.

It was important that Jesus warn his followers of the trials to come. He didn’t want them unprepared. Jesus wants us to count the cost of following him just as a man plans the costs of building a tower (Luke 14:28-29).

Opposition from enemies will come from many places.

  1. Jesus said the world will hate his followers. The world signifies those who are not preoccupied with the things of God, those whose affections are on the things of this world, the things we can touch, see and hear.

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. John 15:18-19

  1. Even those closest to you, those who should have the most fierce love for you and protect you will turn against you. God’s natural plan for family is distorted by anger.

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Matthew 10:21

For I have come to turn

“ ‘a man against his father,

a daughter against her mother,

a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Matthew 10:35

For deeper study

Jesus echoed Micah 7 which also gives the answer to dealing with these enemies:

For a son dishonors his father,

a daughter rises up against her mother,

a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,

I wait for God my Savior;

my God will hear me.

Do not gloat over me, my enemy!

Though I have fallen, I will rise.

Though I sit in darkness,

the Lord will be my light.

Micah 7:6-8

  1. Jesus said in summary that you will be hated by “all”, meaning many, even those in unexpected places.

“You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” Mark 13:13

Where is the good news in this guarantee of enemies?

  1. We are like our beloved Master, Jesus, when we suffer at the hand of enemies.

Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. John 15:20

Suffering at the hands of enemies is a privilege. Our Master, Jesus, went through the same thing. We are blessed to be united with him and we will have to be part of his suffering because of this blessed unity. We are being conformed into the likeness of Christ and dealing with enemies is one way God uses to get us there.

  1. We are guaranteed ultimate triumph over our enemies because we have eternal life with God. Jesus elsewhere said that his apostles should not fear those who can only kill the body (Matthew 10:28) but rely on the keeper of the soul and the One who can destroy it.

…the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” Mark 13:13b

Jesus brings comfort in the face of enemies by reminding his followers that those who endure the suffering that lasts for a moment, will ultimately experience the salvation of eternal life and joy in him.

Stay tuned for the next section of this discussion and we look at the ways Jesus tells us to deal with our enemies.

Jesus and Thanksgiving Part 3-The Last Supper

“After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”” (Luke 22:17–19, NIV)

The scene is a somber one but filled with love. Jesus knows he must leave his beloved apostles soon. He yet has much to share with them.

Jesus with the twelve apostles prepared to celebrate the Passover meal, sacred because it commemorated God’s great power in freeing his people from Egyptian slavery.

But God was soon to perform an even greater miracle. Through the sacrifice of the body and blood of Jesus, the whole world might be saved.

It is in the midst of this sacred scene that Jesus gives thanks to his father. Before passing around the cup of wine to be shared, Jesus gave thanks. Similarly, before passing around the bread to be shared, Jesus gave thanks.

In this foreshadowing of his death, offering up his body and blood, gratitude flowed from the heart and mouth of Jesus.

Facing the most difficult time of his earthly life, Jesus took the time to give thanks.

Do you thank God in the midst of trials? I have found that doing so allows me to shift my focus off my trial and to all that God has provided me.

Jesus gave thanks in the presence Judas, the one who would betray him and send him to a painful, humiliating death.

Even in the presence of your enemies, thank God for who he is and all he has done.

Thank like Jesus did.

Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

“Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.” (John 6:11, NIV)

Background and Setting

“Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.” (John 6:1–13, NIV)

The Master’s Plan

After healing many, Jesus was followed by large crowds because of his miracles. He asks a provocative question of his disciple Philip. “How will we feed so many followers?” Sometimes, God asks you a stretch question, designed to get you to go beyond your comfort zone and what you know you can do. The question was based on Jesus knowing what HE was going to do because he has all power. Andrew, another disciple, dares to come to Jesus with a tiny amount of food that can not come close to feeding the crowd assembled. But did he have a mustard seed of faith that maybe, just maybe, Jesus could perform a miracle with a little bit of food? I think so.

Calm in the Midst of Crowds

In the behind-the-scenes with Jesus, tensions were mounting. What about this idea of feeding all these people? What good can the small amount of food from a small boy do? Meanwhile, the multitudes are waiting for Jesus to continue doing his miracles. In the midst of this, Jesus takes his time. He tells the crowd to sit down.

Jesus is in front of a large crowd of hungry people. The situation seems desperate. What will happen? The people are restless, the disciples are worried. But Jesus will not be rushed. He will do things decently and in order. Thanks must be given before the miracle occurs. Jesus will lead them in giving thanks to the One who provides their daily bread.

The text says that Jesus knew what he was going to do. He knew he was going to do a miracle and feed the 5,000. Again, moving patiently and methodically, Jesus gave thanks before he distributed the loaves that miraculously multiplied. He did the same before he distributed the fish. Jesus thanked God in faith for the miracle before it happened.

Jesus Our Example

Thankfulness for food may have been part of Jesus’ daily routine. Is it part of yours?

As you approach Thanksgiving Day, make sure to order your Thanksgiving Day celebration to make time to give thanks. Don’t rush it. Give all in attendance a chance to express their gratitude as well. God’s provision for us is miraculous. Take time to remember that every day, not just on Thanksgiving, each time you set down to eat of the food God provides for you.

It is God’s will that we be continually conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, each day becoming more like him. Christ was thankful. Pray that you become more thankful to the One who provides everything for your nourishment.