Category Archives: Religion

The Triumphal Entry

And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:26)

The Sunday before Resurrection Day (I dislike the term “Easter”[1]) is traditionally known as Palm Sunday. This is the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem presenting Himself as the long-awaited Messiah. Daniel predicted this presentation[2] to the exact day, and on the following Wednesday evening[3] (not Friday), Messiah was “cut off.”

The Prophet Zechariah foretold of the presentation like this: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). All four Gospels record this event (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19).[4] Many Bibles insert the title “The Triumphal Entry” before the passage. As one ponders the events that followed that week ending in His crucifixion, one wonders, “Where is the triumph?” In those days, conquering kings entered the conquered cities on a white steed amidst a grand procession of his conquered armies followed by his conquering troops. Jesus entered His city on a young donkey colt cheered on by humble peasants and followed by His bewildered disciples. Just a few days later the same crowd jeered at Him as He hung dying on a Roman cross while all His disciples, save one, were nowhere to be found.

We count His resurrection three days later as a triumph over death, from which we rest assured that our eternal life with Him is secure. But His entry into Jerusalem that fateful week was no triumph. Jesus Himself wept over the event. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37)

It is a misnomer to call His presentation on that Sunday a “triumphal entry.” That day yet awaits His return![5]

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:11-16)

When Jesus returns to reign on earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, that will be His Triumphal Entry. On that day, He will enter on a white steed followed by a great host of His followers who will not retreat. “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:7). That day is coming soon. Are you prepared to meet the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? If not read my page “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “Easter’s Wrong” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/03/20/easters-wrong/

[2]  “Daniel 9:26 Commentary” by Precept Austin – https://www.preceptaustin.org/daniel_926

[3]  “Three Days, Three Nights” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/07/13/three-days-three-nights/

[4]  “Jesus’ Last Days” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/03/25/jesus-last-days/

[5]  “The King Is Coming!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/04/09/the-king-is-coming/

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Dry Bones

Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Matthew 24:32-35)

With the cross looming just days away, Jesus’ naïve apostles wondered about Jesus’ coming kingdom and what part they would play. “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3, emphasis mine) The question inaugurated Jesus’ end-times sermon known as the Olivet Discourse. The sermon, addressed to Jesus’ Jewish disciples, delineated the events that would take place in the Great Tribulation spoken of by the Prophet Daniel[1] and detailed by John the Apostle.[2] Now, in order to pinpoint the proximity of these events, Jesus offered the Parable of the Fig Tree (our passage above).

Israel is compared to a fig tree in the Old Testament,[3] and Jesus uses this imagery to signal the last days. Just as the budding of a fig tree singals the proximity of summer, so the “budding” of Israel singals the nearness of the Lord’s return. The generation that witnesses Israel bud, Jesus said, “shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34).

Ezekiel was one of the Jewish priests taken to Babylon in the first group of captives.[4] He was contemporary with the prophets Jeremiah and Daniel, and he ministered to the captives in Babylon. God gave the Prophet Ezekiel a preview of Israel’s rebirth. Ezekiel describes his experience as “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones” (Ezekiel 37:1). “The spirit of the LORD” refers to the Holy Spirit who appears often in the Old Testament. Often we think of the Holy Spirit showing up at Pentcost[5] in the New Testament, and indeed He operates differently today than in Old Testament times, but He was no less active in those days. Today, the Holy Spirit indwells every true believer. In Old Testament time, He “came upon” individuals for specific purposes.

The Holy Spirit carried Ezekiel in a “vision” to a valley full of dry bones. We learn later that these dry bones represent the nation of Israel. “Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts” (Ezekiel 37:11, emphasis mine). Dry bones indicate that these bodies died many years before, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of years. We know by experience that when a body dies and is left unattended, it will decay. Scavengers will eat away at the flesh until nothing is left but the bones. The bones maintain their “boniness” for a long time, but eventually, the sun will bake them dry and they become brittle and eventually turn to dust.

The bones Ezekiel saw were disarticulated and scattered throughout the valley. The vision foretold of a time when Israel would be broken and scattered all over the world with no sign of life and no hope for revival. “And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest” (Ezekiel 37:3). Ezekiel saw no hope of life for these bones, but he trusted that with the Lord, nothing is impossible.[6]

God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones. In his vision, Ezekiel witnessed the bones come together and tendons grow to hold the frame together. Then muscle and finally skin, but the bodies remained dead.[7] Then God told him to prophesy to the wind so that it would breathe life into the lifeless bodies. Ezekiel prophesied as instructed and the bodies came alive and stood to their feet and became a mighty army.[8]

After rejecting their Messiah, God punished Israel by destroying the nation and scattering the Jews all over the earth. This took place in 70 A.D. when the Roman general Titus destroyed Jerusalem and razed the Temple to the ground. The nation of Israel died that day, and its bones were scattered among the Gentile nations. Everywhere they went, they were persecuted, often having to flee from one nation to another with no place they could call their own. Remarkably, they never lost their national identity, traditions, customs, and language, and at every Passover celebration they recited the incessant prayer, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

For nearly 2000 years, the land lay fallow. By all human reconning, the land became a barren desert wasteland. Jews throughout the world could only dream of returning once again to their beloved homeland. Then at the turn of the 20th Century, God started working on Israel’s behalf again. The dry bones started coming together, Then on May 14, 1948, the dry bones stood up “a mighty army.” Immediately, they faced a fight for their lives, but God intervened and the newborn nation survived. Then in 1967, another invasion by their hostile, more powerful neighbors ended in only six days by God’s help, and Israel regained control of their beloved Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

Today, more than 70 years later, tiny Israel is considered the eighth most powerful country in the world.[9] And we are that generation of which Jesus spoke that has witnessed the fig tree bud and the dry bones rise. This is the generation that will see the Lord’s return. Are you ready? If not, read my page, “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Daniel 9:24-27; 11:36-45

[2]  Revelation 6-19

[3]  Joel 1:7, 12

[4]  2 Kings 24:11-16; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8

[5]  Acts 2:1-4

[6]  Jeremiah 32:27

[7]  Ezekiel 37:7-8

[8]  Ezekiel 37:9-10

[9]  “Top 10 Most Powerful Countries in the World 2019

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Cause For Tears

As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help: in our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save us. They hunt our steps, that we cannot go in our streets: our end is near, our days are fulfilled; for our end is come. (Lamentations 4:17-18)

I have tried to maintain a habit of reading the Bible through every year. I like getting a different translation of The One Year Bible because it presents a systematic method of reading a portion from the Old Testament, portion from the New Testament, and a reading out of the “Wisdom Books”[1] every day. The year before last, I tried reading through the Chronological Study Bible (NKJV), because I thought it would be interesting to read Scripture in the sequence of the historical events.

The trouble, for me, in following a prescribed reading plan of any kind is the pressure that comes from knowing you have so much reading to get done today because if you don’t, you will get behind. And if you fall more than one day behind in your reading, it easy to become discouraged and stop. I got behind on my reading several times, but I never became discouraged enough to quit. I am not bragging; I am confessing. When I felt pressure like that, I felt I had to get my reading done, so in my rush to get through it, I missed a lot.

I do not like to read the Bible like that. I like to take my time and really soak it in. I read slowly anyway, but I like to read for detail, and I enjoy “interacting” with what I read. I have developed a system of color coding[2] passages of Scripture with color pencils so that when I leaf through my Bible, I can tell about what the passage refers by the color that highlights it.

Last year I started reading my new King James Bible without the words of Jesus in red. (Red interferes with color coding.) I have not made it all the way through yet, but I am enjoying the “study” much better. I started with the New Testament, then the Minor Prophets, then the books of Wisdom, and now I am in the Major Prophets. I finished Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentations, and I just started on Ezekiel.

That brings me to the subject of my title. The study of Scripture is not a “cause for tears.” Quite the contrary, it brings me a lot of joy. However, as I mentioned, I just finished my study of Jeremiah and Lamentations. The Prophet Jeremiah authored both books. Jeremiah is known as the “Weeping Prophet,” and he had great cause for tears.

He lived at the time of Judah’s demise. He ministered during the time of Judah’s last three kings: Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah.[3] He witnessed the first invasion by the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar that took the first round of captives to Babylon. The Prophet Daniel was in this first group. Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiakim captive and replaced him with his brother, Zedekiah. After nine years, Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar by refusing to pay tribute, so Nebuchadnezzar mounted a second invasion of Jerusalem. This time he razed Jerusalem to the ground. Nebuchadnezzar took Zedekiah captive, but not before making him watch the slaughter of his sons before having his eyes gouged out.[4] Jeremiah witnessed all of this.

Jeremiah had cause for tears. For 40 years he pleaded with Judah to repent of her idolatries. He warned of impending doom for their obstinance and refusal to abandon their pagan gods and return to “the God of Israel.” For this, he was persecuted, mistreated and imprisoned, yet he refused to stop proclaiming, “Thus saith the LORD.” To the first round of captives taken, he wrote letters encouraging them to build houses, plant gardens, take wives and raise families, seek the welfare of the city in which they lived, and not to listen to the false prophets that said the captivity would not be for long.[5] This oft-quoted out-of-context passage followed God’s admonition. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11). Although we can take comfort knowing that God only desires the best for His people, we must also keep in mind to whom this was addressed and the circumstances that precipitated it.

What follows clearly shows that this message was for them, not necessarily for us. “Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive” (Jeremiah 29:12-14). They treated Jeremiah as a traitor for this message of hope.

God gave many promises to Jeremiah concerning Israel’s bright future. “And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:3-4). “Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished” (Jeremiah 30:10-11). “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me” (Jeremiah 32:37-40).

We see these promises being fulfilled before our eyes. Israel has returned to her land. From all over the world, Jews are returning to their Promised Land, and the desert is blooming.[6] Yet, in spite of the promise of a bright future, Jeremiah watched his beloved Jerusalem crumble to dust and all her people either killed by the sword or taken away captive. It was cause for tears.

As I read Jeremiah’s record, it is a cause for tears because I see what Jeremiah saw but in my beloved nation. Our nation is steeped in idolatry. It is not so much in the form of pagan deities, although there is some of that in the growing number of occult practices – Wicca, witchcraft, satanism, etc. – but mostly in the worship of all forms of entertainment and materialism. Anything that takes a higher priority than God is idolatry.

Our country has fallen prey to the practice of infanticide in the form of abortion even up to the time of birth. There may not be a blazing bronze statue of Baal on which to burn the babies, but abortion is an offering to Baal nonetheless.

Pornography is often a secret sin harbored by many Christians, even Christian leaders. Prostitution has become passé so much that even President Trump’s indiscretion with a porn star is only a slight embarrassment because of its exposure.

The “gay” agenda continues to force its presence into the mainstream so that public schools are indoctrinating children as young as kindergarten into the “normalcy” of this perverse behavior. Children are being taught that they can reject the biological sex with which they were born and be whatever sex they choose to be. Recently, the media celebrated an eleven-year-old “drag princess” for his “talent” in dancing for dollars at a gay bar.[7] Another ten-year-old “drag princess” was photographed posing with a naked adult drag queen,[8] and our society seems to think nothing of it. How is this not considered a form of child abuse?

Then there are child prostitution rings where grown men go to engage in sexual intercourse with little girls and boys. There is an island in the Caribbean where many of our politicians go to engage in sex with children.[9] Imagine the power the ring operators hold over politicians for keeping their secrets.

All of this and more is cause for tears. It took Israel less than 1000 years to arrive at such a depraved condition where God had to banish them from the land. Our nation, from the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620, is only 399 years old, and look at how far we have fallen! Arguably, this moral decline has taken place within the last generation – 70 years – and has rapidly accelerated within the last 20 years.

Another popular verse of Scripture quoted out of context is 2 Chronicles 7:14. God made this promise to Solomon at the dedication of the Temple. He said, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” His people did not humble themselves, pray, seek His face, nor turn from their wickedness, and the Temple to which they were to turn was completely destroyed. Surely there was a remanent of faithful ones among the wicked. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among those,[10] but that did not stop God from punishing the nation.

We do not have a Temple toward which to pray except for the one “not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). Still, God throughout the ages instructed us to pray for our nation and our leaders;[11] but that offers little security if God deems the nation unredeemable. Perhaps part of God’s punishment will include taking out the faithful before the final destruction. However, like Jeremiah knowing the future promise of restoration yet living in the midst of national decline, we have cause for tears. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Notes:


[1]  The “books of Wisdom” or the “Wisdom Books” include Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.

[2]  My system of color coding: Yellow = Noteworthy; Orange = Attributes of God; Green = Attributes of Jesus; Light Blue = Attributes of Holy Spirit; Purple = Word of God; Red = Blood/Salvation; and Brown = End-Times Prophecy

[3]  Jeremiah 1:2-3

[4]  Jeremiah 39:6-7

[5]  Jeremiah 29:4-9

[6]  Isaiah 35:1

[7]  “Nolte: 11-Year-Old ‘Drag Queen’ Dances for Dollar Bills in Gay Bar

[8]  “10yo Drag Queen Posing with Naked Adult Man is “Beautiful” and “Not Sexualized

[9]  “Sex Tourism And Trafficking In The Dutch Caribbean

[10]  Daniel 1:6

[11]  1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Peter 2:13-15,17

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Faith, Hope, & Love

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Since my car accident at the end of November, I have been faithfully attending therapy sessions to realign my neck and spine. If you have to go, it is a blessing to have friendly people to work with you. Where I go, the therapist’s ages are all about mid-thirties and younger, and they are all very friendly and caring.

Last week a new one showed up at the clinic, and she fit in perfectly with the rest of the crew. One day as I picked up my chart to check out, I noticed an interesting tattoo on the posterior side of her left wrist. Personally, I dislike tattoos, but this one caught my attention. It was an anchor with an unfinished heart above the stock of the anchor. I asked her what it signified, and she said it stood for faith (the anchor), hope (the cross), and love (the heart). I picked up my chart, smiled, and said, “Nice,” and left to start the rest of my day.

At my next appointment, I saw her again, pointed to her tattoo and asked, “And the greatest of these is ______?” She looked at me as if I had two heads, so I clarified. “Your tattoo stands for faith, hope, and love. Of the three, which is the greatest?” She looked at me and then looked at her tattoo and then answered with a question in her voice, “Love?” I asked why, and she said, “because it’s bigger?” I told her that it was from a passage in the Bible, and I quoted, “And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). She smiled, took out a pen and scribbled “1 Cor 13 13” inside the heart, and said, “I’ll have to look that up.”

At my next session, I asked her if she had looked up the verse. She confessed that she had been too busy. I pulled out my cell phone that has my favorite Bible app on it. I looked up 1 Corinthians 13:13 for her and let her read it for herself. She was a little confused when she read “charity” instead of “love.” I explained that the Greek word translated “charity” is agapē which is translated as “love” in other parts of the New Testament. The reason the KJV translators used “charity” here is that “charity” explains the nature of agapē more clearly. Charity is a kind of giving or expressing of love that is offered freely without expectation of receiving anything in return. She seemed to appreciate the brief lesson, and I think she gained a better appreciation for her tattoo. (I still dislike tattoos.)

As I left the clinic, I thought about that verse. Why is love the greatest of these three? The verse begins, “And now abideth…” Currently, right now, exist faith, hope, and charity. We need “faith” because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, emphasis mine). John’s Gospel records, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The word translated “believeth” is the Greek word, pisteuō, and it means “to have faith in.” We must have “faith” in Jesus in order to be saved.

Once we have trusted in Jesus for our eternal salvation, then we have “hope” that one day He will return to take us to be with Him as He promised. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, emphasis mine). All of this is future, and we have no “hard” evidence that it will come true, but in Hebrews, we read, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Our “faith” is “substantive,” and we have the evidence of the Holy Spirit within us to confirm the truth of those “things not seen.” That same Spirit assures us that our hope is real.

Then there is “charity” (love). The pages of the Bible are replete with demonstrations of God’s love. John reminds us, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16, emphasis mine). Paul tells us that “charity” (love) never fails. It stands to reason that if “God is love,” then love will never fail. Paul makes it clear that all things will fail, but love will never fail (1 Corinthians 13:8).

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13). On the day we enter into our Lord’s presence, there will be no need for faith because our faith will be transformed into reality. There will be no need for hope, for our hope will be realized. However, love will remain as eternal as God Himself. Now remain faith, hope, and love, these three, but the greatest, because it will outlast the other two, is love.

P.S.

I searched the internet for a picture of a tattoo like the one this young lady had and could not find an exact match. The one I selected for this post was a close match, but I had to do a little “photoshopping” to get it to look right. Notice the unfinished heart. That made me think that the love – even God’s love – that we experience in this life is incomplete. Not until we are in His presence will we experience the completeness of His love. That is something for which to look forward!

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The Bethlehem Star

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. (Matthew 2:9)

Once more the Christmas season arrived with all the usual pre-season hype of merchants competing for your hard-earned bucks by attempting to convince you that their product will bring you all the love an joy you deserve for “the holidays,” or that their product is the perfect gift to demonstrate your love for a loved one. As Christians, we know, or should know, that the celebration centers around the person of Jesus Christ – God’s gift to us.

Our church choir and orchestra performed our annual Christmas concert last Sunday. It was a program of beautiful Christmas music with a simple skit in the middle to give the choir a break. There was no pageantry; no live angles suspended in midair; no live animals herded down the aisles; no blinding laser lights flashing or smoke machines making fog. No, it was just good music meant to focus our attention on “the Reason for the season.”

This time of year should cause us to reflect on the significance of that incredible event when God came down to take on human flesh in the form of a baby. He came to a poor Nazarene couple. She was a virgin, pregnant out of wedlock.[1] He was a simple carpenter, an honorable man willing to fulfill his vow to his pregnant bride and to raise her child that was not his.[2]

Luke records the circumstances of their arrival to the little village of Bethlehem[3] and the birth of God-made-man in a stable – probably a grotto – meant for sheltering animals. It was a most malapropos place for the birth of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Yet, as Paul puts it, “[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).

In the fields outside of Bethlehem, shepherds kept the sheep destined for Temple sacrifice. Luke tells of an angel appearing to the shepherds to announce the birth of their Good Shepherd and how an army of angels illuminated the night sky and filled the air with their chorus of praise to God, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). It must have been a spectacular sight to behold, and yet only shepherds witnessed it. It was their private invitation.

Matthew records a visitation by foreigners – gentiles – of high estate. These were the Magi[4] from somewhere in Mesopotamia, perhaps even from Babylon. They were not invited to the “presentation” as were the shepherds. In fact, they did not arrive until more than a year later. We conclude this by comparing the two accounts. Luke calls the child a “babe” – Greek brephos meaning “infant.”[5] Matthew’s record describes the baby Jesus as a “young child” – Greek paidion meaning a “little one” or “little boy,” perhaps a toddler. We can further infer this because of Herod’s edict to kill all the baby boys in Bethlehem that were two years old and younger.[6] Additionally, the shepherds found the child wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger,[7] while the Magi found Him in a “house.”[8]

The Magi were not invited. They were looking for Him. Some Bible scholars suggest that these “Wise Men” were of the “School of Daniel,” and were familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and the prophecies of the coming Messiah. God revealed to Daniel, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times” (Daniel 9:25, emphasis mine). “Weeks” are groups of seven years. “Threescore” is sixty (60). Applying simple math, we get (7×7)+(60×7)+(2×7) or 483 years. The Magi were “Wise Men,” and they could do the math. They knew the time was near. Not only that, but they were astronomers who carefully studied the stars, which God created for signs (i.e., a signal, flag, beacon, etc.) and seasons (i.e., appointment or festival).[9]

As the Magi studied the night sky, they observed an unusual pattern in the heavens that alerted them to the birth of a new king. But who was this new king and where was he to be born? They searched the source where all wise men should look; they searched the Scriptures. There, in the Hebrew Book of Numbers, they found this prophecy, “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth” (Numbers 24:17, emphasis mine). Ah ha! The king (the “Sceptre”) was to come from Jacob, i.e., Judah and a star would “beacon” His arrival. Add to this, Daniel’s prophecy of 483 years suggested that the time was up.

The Magi assembled a caravan and headed west toward the only place where a Jewish king would be born – Jerusalem. When they arrived, they went to the king’s palace – the only suitable place for the birth of a king, “Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2, emphasis mine). This announcement was unsettling for Herod, but after inquiring of those who should have known, the Wise Men were directed to Bethlehem. “And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet [Micah 5:2], And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel” (Matthew 2:5-6, emphasis mine).

So off they went toward Bethlehem, and something very strange happened. “When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was” (Matthew 2:9, emphasis mine). That last statement has caused much controversy. “Stars” do not behave in that way. All stars rise in the east (because of the earth’s rotation) and set in the west, just like the sun does. Bethlehem is south-southeast of Jerusalem. For the star to go “before them,” it would have to alter its normal course from east to west and travel north to south instead.

For this reason, many have suggested that the star was a comet – “Have you seen what I’ve seen? A star, a star shining in the night with a tail as big as a kite.” However, a comet will not go before you and then stop and hover over a house.

Some have suggested that the star was a conjunction of Jupiter (the King Planet) and Venus (the Mother Planet). Still, others have suggested that it was a conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus (the King Star), which is the major star in the constellation Leo (Jesus is the “Lion of Judah). This conjunction has some possibilities for the star the Magi saw “in the east,” while they were still in Mesopotamia. On September 11 (hmmm, 9-11), 3 BC, Jupiter joined Regulus (chief star in Leo), Royal Planet and Royal Star. The sun was in Virgo (Virgin Constellation), and the New Moon in Royal Constellation Leo (Judah). It was the first day of Jewish New Year – Rosh HaShannah.[10] This conjunction announced the Savior’s Birth.

However, that does not explain the strange movement of the star that led the wise men to Bethlehem. Besides, the conjunction that alerted the Magi would not remain in that configuration for the duration of time that it took them to arrive in Jerusalem. This “Bethlehem Star” must have been something else. Interestingly, there was another phenomena that occurred the following year, December 25, 2 BC. “Jupiter began to move westward, At its stationary point in Virgo Winter Solstace [sic], Daystar in Coma[11] Overhead at Bethlehem at Dawn?” [sic][12] Jesus at this time would have been 15 months old (provided He was born on September 11, 3 BC) – a “young child.” Obviously, this is not the same star the Magi saw originally, and Matthew seems to confirm this. When they arrived in Jerusalem, the Magi announced that they had “seen” (past tense) “His star in the east” (Matthew 2:2, emphasis mine). However, in verse 9, Matthew simply calls it “the star, which they saw in the east.” Perhaps that is a difference without a distinction, but this phenomena, except for the presence of Jupiter, does not seem to shout “King” as clearly. Again, all stars rise in the east, so seeing the star in the east to me merely suggests the direction from which they observed the star rise. That still does not explain the strange movement of the star.

Here is what I think – and I can speculate just as well as the next man. In the evening, as the Magi made their way to Bethlehem, they looked toward the east and observed a bright conjunction of stars – perhaps it was the December 25, 2 BC phenomena. There in the midst of this bright gathering of stars appeared an angel. Angels are sometimes referred to as “stars” in the Bible.[13] As the Magi observed the star, the angel (star) descended from the midst of the stellar conjunction and dropped down into the atmosphere where it could lead the Magi to where Jesus was. In case you are skeptical of my suggestion, let me remind you again of what the shepherds witnessed out in the field. “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid” (Luke 2:9, emphasis mine). That must have been a pretty dazzling angel!

It might have happened that way, or maybe not. Perhaps it was a one-time, special occasion miracle of God. Whatever it was, the message was clear. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Notes:


[1]  Luke 1:26-38

[2]  Matthew 1:18-25

[3]  Luke 2:1-20

[4]  “Who Were the Magi?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/12/14/who-were-the-magi/

[5]  Luke 2:16

[6]  Matthew 2:16

[7]  Luke 2:12, 16

[8]  Matthew 2:11

[9]  Genesis 1:14

[10]  “Summary of Conjunctions of Planets (“wandering stars”), Constellations and Stars: Meanings, Interpretations, Timetable, Other Astronomical Events Near Time Of Christ’s Birth” – http://www.tccsa.tc/articles/star_dates.html

[11]  Ibid. “The Star in the Head of the Infant in “Coma” visible in daylight for 300 years.”

[12]  Ibid.

[13]  Job 38:7; Revelation 1:20; 6:13;12:4

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Pride

Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom. (Proverbs 13:10)

Pride is not all bad. There is nothing wrong with having a “dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one’s position or character,” i.e., “self-respect; self-esteem.”[1] It took almost five years to build, but I was proud of the 1/60th-scale model of Noah’s Ark that I built for ICR, and I get a sense of pride when people come by and admire it. There is nothing wrong with that kind of pride. If you think about it, God demonstrated that kind of pride at the end of each day of creation when He declared everything “good.” Then on the final day of creation, He declared it all “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

However, pride is wrong when it becomes “a high or inordinate opinion of one’s dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.” [2] The Bible says, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts” (Psalm 10:4).

Recently, I was saddened when this kind of pride was demonstrated in a very public way by one Christian against another. If I named the parties involved, many of my readers would know them both, as they are both well known in the “creationist” community. I personally know and love both of these men, so the fact that one is attacking the other is disappointing, to say the least. I have been disappointed by many people in my life, and I am certain this will not be the last time. That something like this should happen does not surprise me, but because I know both men so well, the attack of one upon the other is especially heartbreaking.

I will not detail the particulars of the attack otherwise, but I will invent fictitious names for ease of reading. The proud one I will call “Sky” and his victim I will name “Adam.” Both Sky and Adam are highly trained scientists albeit in very different disciplines. Both Sky and Adam are professing Christians, and both are excellent Bible scholars. Adam is “earthy” and humble in his demeanor. Although he is very well educated and experienced in his profession, he sees his achievements as gifts from God to be used in service to God. Sky tends to be full of himself and proud of his academic achievements. As a result, he holds tenaciously to his opinions which are always right in his own eyes. He also likes to associate himself with others holding similar views of themselves, who are, in other words, prideful.

Some of Sky’s “associates” boast degrees related to those in Adam’s field of training. They criticize Adam for attempting to alter some scientific language to give greater credit to the Creator rather than attributing creation to an act of nature. These associates prefer the language of evolutionists because they fear that adopting “Creator friendly” language will make them appear more “unscientific” to their secular peers even though creationists have little hope of being respected by secular scientists.

Sky’s star-status has dimmed of late, so, perhaps to bolster waning popularity, he verbally attacked Adam by name in a popular science journal to discredit him. His ad hominem attack made no sense considering he knows nothing of Adam’s field of expertise. Because Sky’s associates disagree with Adam’s “new language,” and because Sky fancies himself a peerless debater, he assumed the task of tearing down his friends’ nemesis – and this is a Christian brother.

I have seen this kind of pride in academic and church circles. Academians, especially those with doctoral degrees, spend years developing their ideas. It takes many long years of study and research to earn a doctoral degree. The challenge often involves coming up with a new, never-before-thought-of idea and develop that idea into a doctoral dissertation. When completed, the doctoral candidate must defend his/her dissertation before a panel of “doctors.” The challenge is not an easy one, so it easy to see why the successful candidate might become prideful. Getting a Ph.D. is a great achievement, and a certain amount of pride is well-deserved and understandable.

However, what happens later on when someone challenges that cherished idea with the possibility of being proven wrong? The wrong kind of pride will fight for that idea whether it be right or wrong. The right kind of pride that carries along with it a sense of humility accepts the challenge and the possibility of being proven wrong in order to learn an even better way.

I fear for my brother Sky and his associates. The Bible says, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit” (Proverbs 29:23). The Lord “hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts” (Luke 1:51b). “The LORD will destroy the house of the proud” (Proverbs 15:25a). “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).

I know my brother Adam. He is a man of gentle spirit and a kind heart. I pray that God will grant him the wherewithal to absorb this attack without retaliation. (I know that in an honest debate, Adam can shred Sky to pieces.) “Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud” (Proverbs 16:19). It is a shame that things like this happen within a community of believers – very sad. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) – if not in this life, for certain in the next. In that day all pride shall be consumed. “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch” (Malachi 4:1).

Notes:


[1]  Definition of “pride” – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/pride

[2]  Ibid.

 

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One Was Thankful

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, (Luke 17:15)

Thanksgiving Day is upon us, and I’m sure most of us have plans for food, family, friends, and fellowship. In today’s culture, Thanksgiving Day is just a good excuse to have a day (or two) off work, indulge in gluttonous behavior, and worship before the luminous god of football followed by the giving of alms to the god of materialism the next day, all the while in complete ignorance of the significance of the day.

As I thought about Thanksgiving coming up, the Lord brought to mind the account of Jesus healing the ten lepers. We read about that in Luke 17:11-19:

And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. (Luke 17:11-19)

Following the “Transfiguration” (Luke 9:28-36), Jesus “stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). Coming down from Caesarea Philippi, Luke records that Jesus “passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee” (v. 11). He is traveling from the north to the south (toward Jerusalem), which means He must pass through Galilee first before going through Samaria. Why did Luke name Samaria first? I do not know. I could not find one commentator that could tell me, but I suspect the answer is down below. Jesus was on His way to the cross.

As the passage records, ten leprous men met Him, and while remaining at a distance –because their disease was so contagious, they were not allowed to come near other people – they cried out for Jesus to have mercy on them. They addressed Him as “Master” – Greek ἐπιστάτης (epistatēs), from epi, “superimposition, to be over, above,” and histēmi, “to stand” Together the title means “one who stands above” – Master! This is not to be confused with διδάσκαλος (didaskalos) meaning “teacher” (Luke 3:12). Thus, they recognized that Jesus had the power to heal their disease.

When Jesus saw them, “He said unto them, ‘Go show yourselves’” (v.14). Note that Jesus does not touch nor approach them. Why? Jesus had often touched lepers when He healed them, why not today? Jesus was on His way to the Cross. He could not allow Himself to become “unclean.” Note also that His Word was sufficient to heal the lepers – “as they went, they were cleansed.” This healing by His verbal command is a clear demonstration of His deity.

All ten exercised faith in believing His Word that they would be healed, but only one returned to give thanks. “When he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God” (v. 15). “And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan” (v. 16). He did not simply bow in reverence. He completely prostrated himself, flat with his face to the ground. He placed himself at Jesus’ feet. His attitude was one of complete humility, reverence, worship, and gratitude – “and he was a Samaritan.” That this one was a Samaritan may explain why Luke listed Samaria before Galilee. The implication is that the other nine were Jews.

Jesus seems surprised that only this one returned to give thanks. However, knowing that the Lord knows the hearts of all men, His feigned surprise was likely intended to make a point. Jesus said that “[God] is kind to the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35).

Thankfulness was not particularly characteristic of the Jews. Consider how often they complained after they were freed from Egypt. Think of how soon they fell into idol worship during the time of the Judges. Consider their presumption on God knowing that they were His people. Their lack of gratitude came as no surprise to Jesus. However, the “stranger” recognized his unworthiness and was grateful for the mercy Jesus bestowed on him.

“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (v.19). The Greek word translated “whole” here is σεσωκεν (sesoken), and it means “has saved.” Literally what Jesus said is, “thy faith hath saved thee.” Obedience (which also required faith) had made him “whole,” i.e., healed him. However, his “faith” in recognizing Jesus as “Master” saved him. He was “whole” not only physically, but spiritually.

Does God Expect Us To Be Thankful?

Leviticus 22:29  And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the LORD, offer it at your own will.

  1. Not out of obligation
  2. 2 Corinthians 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

1 Chronicles 16:8  Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.

Can’t do the latter without the former.

1 Chronicles 16:34  O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalm 30:4  Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.

Considering God’s holiness and our unworthiness, how can we not be thankful for the love He has shown to us?

Psalm 95:2  Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

Not “come before His presence with prayer requests.” Prayer requests are fine, but let’s first thank Him.

Psalm 100:4  Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

“Bless His name,” i.e., “speak well of His name” What are some attributes of God that come to mind?

Colossians 2:6-7  As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:  (7)  Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

Philippians 4:6  Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

1 Thessalonians 5:18  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Consequences of Ingratitude:

Romans 1:21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Ingratitude darkens the heart.

2 Timothy 3:1-2, 7-9  This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  (2)  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy … (7) Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (8)  Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. (9)  But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

Benefits of Thankfulness:

Psalm 140:13  Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.

We are made “righteous” through Christ. Because of that we have His presence within us.

Jeremiah 30:19  And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small.

  1. In context, this is referring to Israel’s return from Babylonian captivity.
  2. However, the principle applies.
  3. God will bless our thankfulness.

2 Corinthians 4:15  For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

  1. “redound” Greek περισσεύω (perisseuō)
  2. to superabound (in quantity or quality), be in excess
  3. God’s grace to us “supper-abounds” through thanksgiving.

2 Corinthians 9:11  Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

Colossians 3:15  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

1 Timothy 4:1-5  Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;  (2)  Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;  (3)  Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.  (4)  For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:  (5)  For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Conclusion:

Jesus healed ten lepers. Nine of them were of “the chosen.” Their attitude reflected ingratitude for the marvelous work Jesus performed in their lives – almost as if they believed they were entitled to what they received.

One leper – a “stranger,” a Samaritan, clearly an “outsider” due to both his leprosy and his heritage – recognized his own unworthiness and the greatness of the One who healed him; and he returned to give thanks and worship the God who healed him. And he was saved.  Let us recognize that we are all lepers and give thanks for all He has done for us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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