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I remember as a child, whenever we were sitting somewhere and waiting, I often didn’t have anything to do. Unlike my own kids who can play with a smart devise while we wait, or often will have entertainment provided in the form of a toy or gadget, I rarely had such a thing. I remember I would play with my parents’ hands, whoever it was that was near. My mom’s hands were always very soft and tender. Sometimes I would play with the ends of her fingernails or her thin fingers, but I can clearly remember how silky and soft they were. They were always very clean and pristine. My dad’s hands were quite the opposite. His hands were thick and calloused from the hard manual labor of construction. His nails were always trimmed very short, the skin thick and dry. His hands were strong. It’s not that they were dirty, but they felt rough and edgy. My mom and dad’s hands were reflected the work they did, but also of who they were. Mom was the nurturer and caregiver. Her hands were hard-working, but in the most tender ways possible. My dad was the main provider, his hands did the hard and difficult work. He was the disciplinary, but was always the first to be a rock of steadiness and encouragement as well.

Our hands reflect who we are and what we do. Perhaps one of my most favorite accounts about hands comes from the story of this famous art piece known as “The Praying Hands.”

Two Durer brothers, of eighteen children, shared the same dream to pursue their talent and love of art. Being from a poor and large family, neither of them could afford to pay for university. They decided to flip a coin, the winner would attend art school while the other worked in the mines to pay. When the winner had completed his schooling, then the other brother would support the latter to attend as well.

Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to attend school. Albert worked in the mines in hard manual labor to support his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht showed great talent in various art forms and was beginning to make great money for various commissioned works.

When Albrecht returned home as his schooling was complete, the family celebrated with a great feast. Towards the end of the great celebration, Albrecht raised a toast to his brother Albert, who worked so hard in the mines to make it possible for him to gain his success. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”

All eyes turned to Albert who sat weeping and shaking his head as he quietly said, “no…no…no…No brother, I cannot go on to school. It’s too late for me. Look at my hands. Four years in the mines have destroyed them. Each of my fingers have been crushed, they are thick with calluses, I can’t even lift this glass in your toast because of arthritis. It’s to late for me to learn the fine motor skills that it takes to create fine details in art.”

Albrecht went on to create many great works of art during his lifetime. His most famous work is the one seen here, known as “The Praying Hands.” This sketch he created to honor the sacrifice that Albert gave to him. This drawing of rough strong hands show not only sacrifice, but love, honor, and faithfulness.

Strong hands are not always rough hands, and likewise, soft hands are not always a sign of weakness.

Today I was reading about David in 1 Samuel 23. Most people are familiar with David of the Bible. His most famous account, both in art and literary interpretation, is the story of when he defeated the giant, Goliath. He was a young, attractive and fearless fellow. He was anointed to become the next king of Israel. People quickly adored and followed him, even King Saul’s own children, Jonathan and Michal. It didn’t take long for Saul to become jealous of David and set his face towards killing him. Everywhere David went, people helped him. He narrowly escaped death by spear many times. He learned to run to save his life.

His favorite place to hide from Saul was in the barren desert region of Judea. This was home to David. He knew the best places to hide. No doubt, he knew this place so well from his time as a shepherd. This dry and arid place was merely a place to pass through. The wilderness attracted those on the fringes—outcasts, shepherds, fugitives, hermits, and even fearful rulers. These were the people who became David’s most trusted men. (1 Samuel 22:2)

The desert served as a refiner’s fire for David. Early on, when it would be easy for him to become arrogant and puffed up, David learned to depend instead, fully on the care of God. He was pressed on every side. The enemies that lived in the land threatened him, and his own people of Israel had turned their back to him in order to serve King Saul. David met great success all around him, and yet he no doubt felt the frailness of his own life as Saul continually pursued him.

The “dry and weary land” served as a backdrop for David’s own weariness. And the lack of water around him illustrated an even deeper thirst he felt: “My soul thirsts for You” (Psalm 63:1).

At the height of his emotional and physical distress, David sought refuge in his spiritual life.

He yearned for God. source

The biggest difference in David and Saul’s characters is seen at those most pressing moments. Saul easily gives in to the moment. He allows his desperation to control the outcome. David was driven by the understanding that God is greater and able to determine his reactions based on that. David defeats Goliath because God is greater and stronger. He doesn’t take Saul’s life because God is the giver of life. He bravely faces battle because he knows the battle belongs to the Lord.

But we all know there are times that the head and the heart don’t match up. The head knows the truth, but the heart believes the lie. The head knows God will provide, but the heart worries. The head knows God can heal, but the heart grows weak with illness. No matter the reality we know, the heart makes us weary in doubt and fear. The heart becomes dehydrated before our mind even thinks about thirst. From the inside out, we begin to die a little to our faith, especially the longer we endure in the unforgiving sun.

I love to read these stories of David. they are full of excitement and encouragement. Normally, when I have read over 1 Samuel in the past, I quickly read through 1 Samuel 23 trying to get to the part where David chooses to not kill Saul. The anticipation of David hiding in the very cave that Saul is in. I giggle a little to myself picturing Saul towards the mouth of the cave. The Bible gives the detail that he was “relieving himself,” which we will just leave at that. Little known to him, he has David trapped in this cave. He’s so preoccupied with reading the Readers Digest I guess, that he doesn’t even feel David sneak up and cut a part of his cloak off. Here is David’s chance to kill Saul, but instead he protects him from his own men.

David didn’t always know what to do. He wasn’t always the mighty warrior that he is most often memorialized as. He was indeed human. Like us all, in a dry land, he needed to be filled with living water.

Jonathan was one of Saul’s sons. He was in line to be the next king, however because Saul did not obey God (see 1 Samuel 15), he was rejected as king and God choose David to be the next king. Jonathan was not like his father, however. He trusted God to mightily fight for him in battle. Jonathan and David become extremely close. Jonathan is drawn to David’s faith in God, his courage in battle, and they form a unique friendship. Jonathan is not intimated by David’s greatness. They even promise to each other that they will protect and serve each other. Jonathan personally saves David many times, and  his own father even tries to kill him because of his friendship to David. Jonathan knew that David would be the next king, and he didn’t allow his pride to destroy their friendship.

It’s during this time in the desert, as David is fleeing from Saul, that Jonathan, for one final time, will risk going to David. Jonathan plays in important role in the character of David, a self-love of a true friend. Although David is the star in the story that is unfolding, in the background we catch a glimpse of Jonathan’s friendship to David.

One day near Horesh, David received the news that Saul was on the way to Ziph to search for him and kill him. Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. 1 Samuel 23:15-16

Saul was in hot pursuit of David. He had nearly caught him just prior to this, change David up a mountain. David escaped only because Saul was called out to protect his own country from the Philistines. Jonathan, perhaps stirred by the Spirit, feels to urgency to go to David to encourage him in his faith. The imagery in verse 16 is just simply awesome. (sorry I don’t have a better adjective for that.) “Encourage him to stay strong in his faith” is literally “strengthened his hand in God.” Before, when I had read this passage, I would have skimmed over that and thought nothing more, but this time it was as if Jonathan was speaking that encouragement to me. It was almost as if the Spirit took me by my hands, holding them out and said, “strengthen your hands.”

About a year ago, we were studying the book of Hebrews in a ladies Bible study. Hebrews is a book full of super encouraging verses, that I affectionately call “Life Verses”. Words to live by; words to encourage one’s faith. We were sharing favorite verses as a group, and my friend that leads the study pointed out this verse:

Hebrews 1212

 

This was a verse that never jumped out at me, but I immediately tucked it away in my heart to meditate and remember.

Some time had passed, I had been studying the book of Judges to teach the kids at church. I was reading about Gideon. He was an unlikely hero. Those are always my favorites. He was a man, who in his time, was part of a people who were forced to live in a harsh environment. He was preparing food, hiding in a wine-press, when he receives the call of God. He was addressed as “Mighty Warrior.” Someone who has to hide from fear is not usually looked upon as mighty. Gideon prepares an army for battle and is told he has too many men. After some narrowing down, he then is about to lead his tiny army of 300 men against thousands. The sun sets as his men make final preparations, and Gideon is told to sneak down into the enemy’s camp. If he is afraid or discouraged to go down to hear what the enemy is saying and so that “your hands will be strengthened.

There is was a again. There is no doubt that this is a call to arms. It’s a call to prepare the battle line with a strong-arm, but I think for Christians it’s more than just to feel “mighty”. For Jonathan he came to David to encourage him to believe in God. He wasn’t saying, “you are strong and mighty and are able to kill my dad.” It was a message to trust in God’s protection.

Earlier this year I was reading through the book of Isaiah, and once again I came across this theme of weak hands. In Isaiah 35, their hands were weak. They had been in that desert time.  A time when the people have been drained of life and hope. There hearts were a wasteland with no strength. In that moment of weakness, like a fresh rain, joy and life returns. Isaiah tells them to BE STRONG. FEAR NOT. God is coming to save them. Isaiah 35

Isaiah 35

Jonathan speaks truth to David. He has come for the purpose of encouraging David. It’s easy to think that people in great positions don’t need encouragement. We see them out there in the spotlight. They seem to have success in all they do, and it’s easy to think they are doing great. But that’s not the case. We need encouragement from others to press on. We need to know that what we are doing is important. We need to hear that even though life is extremely hard, God is there helping us. Working on us. We aren’t dying of thirst in the desert, but instead we are being refined. I’ve learned in my own refining moments this truth. Either the moment will refine me, or I will be refined in the moment. Whatever I am struggling with, I am not left alone to fight my way through. I can be strong; I can have strong hands, not because I am strong, but I serve a God who is stronger and HE is able to do it through me. and despite me.

This desert experience has part of the refining and preparations that David needed to become the greatest King of Israel. It was a time that taught him the importance to thirst. Not for things that only leave us lacking, but to thirst for that which really satisfies- the Living Water.

Psalm 63

A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
6 I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
9 But those plotting to destroy me will come to ruin.
They will go down into the depths of the earth.
10 They will die by the sword
and become the food of jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God.
All who swear to tell the truth will praise him,
while liars will be silenced.

click here for other verses about strengthening hands

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This week of Jesse Tree has primarily been in reading about some of the prophesies of Jesus. Knowing how he has fulfilled them and will one day bring it all to completion has been exactly where my heart has needed to land all week. I remember saying to myself on Tuesday, the 15th just before going to bed “I need the Prince of Peace today.” It was a day that was triple booked. I had crawled into bed that morning near 1 AM after finishing up cookies for an exchange, rounded up kids for school, and as I was leaving for the day, received a call that made me cancel the day to check on my MIL. Needless to say I spent the rest of the day at the hospital with her. When they got her into ICU I finished the day out with running kids, a band concert, more running, last-minute shopping, attended a party briefly that was supposed to be at my house that night (thankfully my dear friend had it at her house instead), forgot my wallet, scrambled to trace my steps to locate it, and more running around. When the day was done, so was I.

Immanuel: God with us. It was super crucial for me this week to find the time to reflect on what He promises for those who trust in him. I cannot even imagine doing life without the His presence.

Day 13: Prophecy of  the Root of Jesse: Day 13 and 14 both fall within the same passage, so their illustrations were a kind of 2-fer.

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Day 14: Prophesy of the Lion and the Lamb

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Day 15: Prophecy of the Prince of Peace: This had to be a simple design for me!

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Day 16: Prophecy of the Good Shepherd: I was challenged in this illustration because art is not really a strong thing for me, but I wanted a more realistic drawing of the Shepherd watching over his flock. It was inspired by a painting I saw on Pinterest.

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Day 17: Prophecy of the Suffering Servant: Another Pinterest inspired painting

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Day 18: Promise of the New Covenant

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Day 19: Prophecy of the town of Bethlehem: This illustration I had done some months ago while reading through Micah. It is also inspired from a painting I saw on Pinterest.

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Already half way through the month and as we near the home stretch before Christmas I feel both relief and stress. Relief because of all the things that have occurred parties, decorating, Christmas shopping, and stress because of what is left to come. It’s nice, for me to take them time though, and adore the King as I study the passages for the Jesse Tree. These are absolutely some of my favorite stories!

Day 7: Josephimage

Day 8: Moses and the Law:

The inspiration behind this was taken from Deuteronomy 6 where we are told the importance to impress on our children the law of the Lord and to follow Him with all our hearts. It is the 10 commandments written to look like a finger print. IMG_6574 IMG_6575 IMG_6576

Day 9: The Promised Land:

This past year, I had focused on the theme of God as our shield. This passage below has inspired me to take some time in 2016 to study the theme of overcoming. I guess it’s very similar, but I can’t wait!

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Day 10: Ruth and Boaz:

This past summer I used the Ruth study from She Reads Truth. As you can see, it left me with no extra room to add more. If you are looking for a simple and good study, I highly recommend this one. image image image image image image image imageimage

Day 11: King David:

This was hard for me to choose, because 1 Samuel 17 is a sort of  “Lesson for Life”. God doesn’t see things like we see things.

Of course I also wanted to illustrate the first real scene that pushes David to the forefront. image image

Day 12: King Josiah finds the scroll:

I love how in Josiah’s account it says that when he was 16 he began to seek the Lord. So good!image

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{from a journal entry after reading the book of Ecclesiastes}

:the final conclusion to this “meaningless” adventure (of life) is this: FEAR GOD & OBEY HIS COMMANDS. Everything else means nothing. Work for pleasure (not to gain things or for status); live in the moment. Success is not measured in what you have because in the end you will lose it all….and who would know any better than Solomon?

{God} has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecc. 3:11

 

Ecclesiastes 3

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Jesse Tree day 20

On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon. But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields. -2 Kings 25:8-12

Four kings after Josiah, the southern kingdom of Israel came to an end. The entire city was destroyed. Their sacred temple became ashes. The wealthy and healthy were carried off to exile, others died, and the rest were left as slaves of the land. They ignored the warnings given to them.

We don’t know much about what happened while they were in Babylon, with the exception of Esther and Daniel. We know that the people would have been mixed up, encouraged to start a new life. A melting pot of other conquered nations were brought together to begin again. The young, attractive, and intelligent were brought into the king’s service. First they had to go through training in how to serve the king properly.

young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well-informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. (Daniel 1:4-5)

This is when we are first introduced to Daniel and his 3 friends. Daniel and the friends didn’t want to eat the kings high fat, but most delicious food. They choose instead to eat vegetables and water. The guard was afraid that they wouldn’t be strong enough, but agreed on a short-term to allow them to follow their own meal plan. At the end of the time, they were still physically strong, so the guard decided to allow them to continue to eat as they choose. By not eating the king’s food, they were able to stick to the food recommended in the law of God.

This was their first bold move to stay true to the word of God, even though all seemed to be lost, but it definitely wasn’t the last.

It seems to me that Daniel had gone on to serve the King more closely, but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego also became trusted leader within Nebuchadnezzar’s governmental officials.

Nebby (as I affectionately call him) had a huge statue made of gold, probably to honor his great accomplishments. It was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide. He gathered all his officials to dedicate the monstrosity with some simple commands. Some music would play a lovely song, and then at  the sound everyone would bow down and worship. If you choose not to worship the statue, then you would be killed. The music sounds, the people bow all but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

I would like to point out the Nebby couldn’t see everyone. It was some astrologers who brought to his attention about the 3 friends. I can’t help but to think they there were put off by the Jewish men. Perhaps they had gone through training with this guys, and had been watching how different they were. They were in Babylon, but had not blended in with the Babylonians.

At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:8-12

Furious that they didn’t follow his command, he goes to them and gives them a chance to defend themselves. “Is this true,” he asks. They are unswerving in their answer and decision. They knew God’s command to not worship any thing else. They knew that they were here in Babylon because of the people breaking God’s law. They didn’t fear death; they would only fear the Lord.

Now you may be wondering, where is Daniel? Did he bow to the statue? We don’t know. I think, since Daniel is the author, that he wasn’t with them, but remember how they got caught. Someone else (some astronomers) had told on these three young men. They were accused of the wrong. Perhaps where Daniel was, the people choose not to say anything. Maybe they wanted to see what would happen to the other 3 before turning him in as well. Of course this is just speculation.

When the 3 refuse to accept their second chance, Nebby is even more angry. No longer does he look at them with favor, but will make them (and anyone else like them) pay dearly. He has the furnace heated 7 times more than normal. The soldier tied the men up, fully clothed, and threw them in to the furnace. The fire was so out of control that some soldiers who were charged with carrying it out died as the 3 friends were thrown inside.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” Daniel 3:24-26

So 3 men go in to the fire. Nebby sees something that doesn’t seem quite right. He double checks with the advisers. “I see 4, not 3. And they aren’t burning up. They are erectly fine, walking around without their ropes, and not hurt.”

So who was the 4th person in the fire? I believe it’s one of two possibilities. The first is that this person is simply an angel sent to protect the men. Clearly, he isn’t human. He doesn’t come out of the fire with the other 3. The other possibility, which I think is more accurate, is that this person is The Angel of the Lord. As in, the pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. He looks like the son of the gods, he is clearly quite different. There have been other times that God appeared in this form in the Old Testament.

Jesse Tree day 20

The three men come out from the fire. Everyone is amazed at what they see. (I’m sure those astrologers were a bit afraid. They crowd around the three men to have a look for themselves. Not only have their clothes been unscorched, their bodies unharmed, but there isn’t even the smell of smoke on them. Their hair is still all there. It is truly an act of God alone. Why can God do such things? He made this world, he made the rules and laws of creation, but he doesn’t have to follow them. He is undefined by his creation.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

I would like to point one final thing about these three heroes. When faced with adversity they had a choice to make in their attitude. They knew that God had the ability to save them. They didn’t know how he would do it, but their conviction about who He is was stronger than the fear of death. “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” In life, we will be face with trials and hard times. Maybe we will never face the threat of death, or maybe we will. No matter the situation, you can find assurance that God is unchanging. EVEN IF he doesn’t do the mighty thing that you need, the miracle, the amazing job, or notoriety you seek, he is still God and in control of your life. Choose to glorify him even in your trouble.

 

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Jesse Tree day 19

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth. -Micah 5:2-4

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. -Luke 2:1-7

The name Bethlehem, literally means “house of bread”. It was a name of several towns in the area, which is even common for us today to find towns in different states with the same name. Miami, FL is nothing like Miami, OK. The people of Oklahoma don’t even pronounce it the same way.

The significance of the passage in Micah is that it names the specific town of Bethlehem, Bethlehem Ephrathah. This is the town that King David’s family derive. Other than David, the town is small and insignificant. It was a small town in the area of Judah, near Jerusalem, but in no way compared to Jerusalem’s significance. The Jewish scholars noted that this would be the town that the Messiah to come would be derived.

The first time this is noted is in Matthew. The entourage from the east arrived in Jerusalem in search of the King of the Jews. They meet Herod to ask for help finding him.  They had seen a great star and traveled the distance to worship the newly arrived king.

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”- Matthew 2:3-6

The priests and teachers of the Law recognized the significance of the prophecy in Micah. Having this bit of information, Herod send the foreigners on to Bethlehem to find this new king. He had secret plans to take him out. (We’ll discuss this more in a couple of days.)

There is another time when the teachers of the law bring of the prophecy of Bethlehem. We find this account in John 7. It is during the Feast of Tabernacles (the same time that Jesus will later proclaim “I AM the light of the world.”). Jesus’ brothers tried to tell him to go to Jerusalem and “show off” his miracles. Jesus hangs back, and later goes up to Jerusalem. Half way through the Feast, Jesus begins to teach in the temple area. Naturally a crowd is draw, amazed by his knowledge and speaking ability.

As crowd mentality tends to do, things seem to turn bad. There are some that no longer appreciate what he is teaching, because it contradicts their comfortable religious apathies. Speaking to the leaders, Jesus questions why they are trying to kill him (although they can’t because it’s not quite time). The crowd is confused. Some think he’s talking to them and that he’s a little crazy. Others understand the seriousness of the situation- that the leadership thinks he may be the Messiah.

At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” John 7:26-27

As the situation intensifies the religious leaders begin to go into panic mode. The crowd seems to begin to piece together what Jesus us claiming- He is God’s Son, the Messiah. They must stop him. They try to arrest Jesus, but are unable. (verse 30)

On the last day of the Festival, the situation continues to intensify. Jesus makes a huge proclamation, to try and clear the situation:

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. John 7:37-39

Jesse Tree Day 19

Jesus proclaims- I am the Messiah. At this the crowd is thrown into more confusion. Some hear what he is saying but don’t quite put it all together. They call him the Prophet, referring to the one before the Messiah (who was John the Baptist). Other have put it all together and understand. Jesus is the Messiah. Then there is some disagreement.

Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. John 7:41-44

 

There are some who believe that because Jesus was from the Galilee area, that the Bethlehem mentioned in the gospels was twisted later. They claim that he was really born in Bethlehem of Galilee, not Judea. They claim that the writers of the gospels changed the city to the one prophesied so that the prophecy would then have been fulfilled. I can’t help but think that this argument is invalid. Why would the writers of the gospels point out this same argument that even the people of Jesus time used. The people knew Jesus was from Nazareth, the Galilee area. That’s part of the confusion about him being the Messiah. The people (well, some of them) were familiar with the Messiah as to come from Judah. Jesus’ birth was unknown to them, and what they didn’t see was that the prophesy was correct and was fulfilled in Jesus.

So what is the significance of Jesus being born in Bethlehem of Judea, David’s birthplace? We have studied the covenant, or promise, that God made to David. God would protect his line for kings and would one day send the Savior from this line. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem not only fulfills the prophecy from Micah, but the other prophecies and promises made about David. Jesus is the root of Jesse fulfilled.

Family Devotion:

gather old family pictures, birth certificates, etc., Bible and ornament

Look together through pictures or other birth keepsakes. Talk about your children’s birth, memories you have, things you’ve kept to remember it. Read the Micah passage together. Explain the significance of Jesus’ birthplace. Not only was the Micah passage fulfilled, but all the prophesies about the Messiah to come. Pray together, thanking God for His word that is true.

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Jesse Tree Day 18

Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:30-34

Jeremiah was the prophet know as the Weeping Prophet. He served the southern kingdom during the time from King Josiah (who we recently studied) through the time of the fall of Jerusalem. During his ministry, very few people listened to him. Instead he was mocked, tortured, imprisoned, and mistreated. At one point he is even carried away with other exiles to Egypt. He messages were mostly full of judgement and wrath to come for the way the people disregarded God’s laws.

God had established a promise with the people of Israel all the way back to the time of Moses (Deut. 6). Promises he made was an agreement to be kept, called a covenant. Some of the covenants that God made with people at various times were one-sided, like with Noah after the flood. Other people who God made covenants with were Adam, Abraham, Moses, and David.

To Abraham God made this covenant:

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2-3

He also made the same covenant to Isaac, and Jacob (later known as Israel). He would create a nation, a chosen people, and provide a place for them to live. The promise was then extended through Moses. They were to stop worshipping other gods. God would provide a sacrificial system for the people to follow as part of the covenant. They were to keep the laws and only worship God. In return God would take care of them, protect them, and would forgive their sins. If they broke the covenant, they would be sent away to exile.

It is on the heels of the exile that we find God foretelling of a new covenant to come. Under the old covenant, children would be punished for the sins of their parents. They were to make reminders of God’s law all around them to help them follow him more closely. Under the old covenant they would have to make sacrifices to appease the guilt of sin. But God had a plan in the works for something better.

Jesse Tree day 18

No longer would the people struggle to follow and keep God’s law. The New Covenant would be different.

The New Covenant would begin with the sacrifice the Jesus made on the cross. The Old covenant had established that a priest would make a sacrifice once a year that would pay for the people’s sins.

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:11-12

Once the New Covenant was completed in Christ’s death and resurrection, He sent the Holy Spirit to come as a seal of the New Covenant. I believe this is what Jeremiah is referring to in the prophecy above. No longer will we have to struggle to remember to keep the Law. No longer will we wonder or doubt. If a person has recognized the debt owed for sin and receives the forgiveness offered only through Jesus’ sacrifice, then the Spirit dwells within them. His job is to remind me of God’s laws and holiness.

“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.

Salvation is for all, not only the promised people of Israel. The people of Israel were to be a light to the nations around them. God was willing to accept any who worshipped him, but rejected the people who didn’t, even his own. The New covenant offers forgiveness of sins, something the old covenant could never offer. Now all peoples are under the same obligation. The new covenant begins with this command:

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Acts 16:31

Family Devotion:

flour, tape, 2 dark-colored contraction paper or fabric, scrapbook paper pre taped to look like a cross the same size as the walking area, Bible and Ornament

Read the passage above in Jeremiah about the new covenant. Ahead of time tape off an area in your kitchen or bathroom that is longer than the distance your kids could jump (about 4 feet). Sprinkle flour all inside this taped off area, and place the dark paper at the other end. Explain that Moses gave the people of Israel the instructions for animal sacrifice. Although an animal was killed every year to wash away the wrongs they did, it was never a complete sacrifice. Have the kids try to get from one end of the flour to the other (where the black paper is) without getting flour on their feet. No matter how hard they try, they either can’t make it, or will step in the flour. The animal sacrifices never were enough. Jeremiah promised the people that a new Covenant was to come. With it, God would change their hearts. Cover the flour area with the “Jesus” paper and change the black piece to a clean piece. This time walk across, and you will have clean feet on the other side. Jesus sacrifice is the only one that can remove all our sins. Pray together, thanking God for the New Covenant. Then clean up the messy flour together.

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