Vs. 4, “As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” Luke now takes us forward to the beginning ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus. Luke gives us some insightful information into the ministry of John (vs. 1-20). Question: What was the purpose of John’s ministry? Part of preparing the way (vs. 4) and fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy was to begin softening the hearts of the people. That is why John preached a message of repentance (vs. 8). John’s ministry was a beautiful example of how we must give all credit to the Lord (vs. 16). And in a short synopsis, Luke records Jesus’ baptism by John (vs. 21-22). The latter half of our chapter is the genealogy of Jesus (vs. 23-38). Certainly, we notice that Luke’s genealogy is not at the start of His gospel like Matthew’s. Question: Why record Jesus’ genealogy? Genealogies were a big part of a person’s identity and the Bible is presenting the facts that Jesus is the Son of God. Luke’s genealogy goes backwards (present to past) while Matthew goes forward (past to present). It’s also notable that Luke records Jesus’ genealogy all the way to Matthew.
Regarding application…Produce Fruit. Vs. 9, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” The ministry I serve in is called “Roots.” Certainly, it pictures our church and members rooted in the foundation of Jesus. However, there is a danger in that we are so focused on being rooted on the word, prayer, and attending church, we then forget to do the other half of our Christian life. We are also exhorted to bear fruit, which is best described as the living evidence of God’s love in our life. Question: Are you bearing fruit? Our church has their VBS this week. It is wonderful to see volunteers doing whatever they can to help produce fruit and love our children. Find a way to bear fruit in a specific way this week!
Vs. 1, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” The most powerful man in the world had no idea that he was a mere puppet in the sovereignty of God. Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10) from a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). The tapestry of God’s will was being woven before creations very eyes. How fitting that the most amazing story was first revealed to humble shepherds (vs. 8-20). Luke also gives us some insight into Jesus’ infancy as Joseph & Mary obeyed the OT Laws of circumcision at eight days (vs. 21- Genesis 17) and purification after 40 days (vs. 22-40 – Leviticus 12). There are two wonderful pictures of faith in the song of Simeon and the prophetess Anna. Luke then fast-forwards us to Jesus as a youth as a twelve year old (vs. 41-52). Up until Jesus begins His ministry, we are not really given any insight into his life, except for this incident at the temple. The family travels up to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival celebrating the deliverance from Egypt and the harvest. Traveling in a caravan of families and groups, its quite understandable that Joseph and Mary would have thought Jesus was with someone else. I love how we see Jesus as a boy sitting amongst the adult teachers conversing and questioning! Question: Can you imagine being questioned by Jesus when he was a boy?
Regarding application…Social Networking. Vs. 17, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.” If Twitter existed, the Shepherds would have been the first to tweet about the amazing encounter with the Savior of the world! The angel told them that this Good News was for all people (vs. 10). The love that Father has for us is shown evidently in the birth of His Son! Because we have been loved, it’s time to share that with the world! It’s Father’s Day in the US today, but even if you don’t have a father in your life, we can celebrate our Heavenly Father. Take time this week to reflect upon the faithfulness and love of our Father. Share His love to someone in your life this week in a tangible way.
Vs. 3, “Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.” Through meticulous eyewitnesses (vs. 2) and investigative research, Luke now compiles all this intel to present the history of Jesus and His church (vs. 1-4). Question: Who is Theophilus? Some biblical scholars believe Theophilus was a Gentile who converted to Christianity but was among the Jews. Others believe Theophilus (friend of God), was a generic name that was written to many. Luke records in detail the angel Gabriel’s visit to Zechariah in the temple regarding the coming birth of John the Baptist (vs. 5-25). We get a wider appreciation of how God was intricately working out the forerunner for Jesus. But Gabriel’s work was not yet finished, for he now comes to visit young Mary (vs. 26-38). It’s fitting that Luke the physician, who would have probably been the most suspicious of a virgin birth claim, records in detail Mary’s perspective. We then see a twist in the story for we now realize that Gabriel’s visit to both Zechariah and Mary was all within the family (vs. 36). After Mary was told her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant, she travels quickly to visit (vs. 39-45). How phenomenal to be told that baby John still in his mother’s womb leaped for joy upon Mary’s visit (vs. 44)! Certainly, Mary’s song/Magnificat (vs. 46-56) is a testament to why she was highly favored (vs. 28). As a very young teenager, her godliness and knowledge of Scripture is an example for all of us. We then fast-forward a bit to John the Baptist’s birth (vs. 57-66). Zechariah and Elizabeth stun the crowd as they come to celebrate John’s circumcision with naming him “John” rather than using a name from the family line. Remember, Gabriel gave specific instructions to name the baby John (vs. 13). And lastly, we are given a front row seat to another song: Zechariah’s song (vs. 67-80). Zechariah knowing that his baby boy would be preparing the way for Jesus, sings a beautiful song of faith and salvation!
Regarding application…Power of Singing. Twice we witness the natural response to God’s goodness was to sing. Both Mary and Zechariah can’t help but express their love for the Lord with a song. The power of song goes back to Moses & Miriam (Exodus 15) as God delivered them from the Egyptians after the crossing of the Red Sea. Throughout Scripture, we see how powerful songs of praise to God are. The 150 chapters of Psalms is a testament to that! Christian churches all over the world sings songs of praise in a response to who God is and what He has done! I still recall Luke’s later account in Acts 16 of Paul & Silas in prison singing hymns and the prisoners listening to them. As they worshipped, God brought upon an earthquake that shook the prison doors open! Brothers and sisters, there is so much joy and power in singing to the Lord! As you attend your churches this weekend, give an extra effort lifting up your voice to the Lord.
The Gospel of Luke sheds more light into the life of and ministry of Jesus. Question: Who is Luke? Luke was a Gentile Greek and physician (Colossians 4:11, 14) and holds the distinction of being the only Gentile to pen Scripture. Not only did he write this Gospel, but he also wrote the book of Acts. Luke was a frequent companion of the Apostle Paul and much of his sources came from Paul. It is believed Luke penned both books with Paul during his first Roman imprisonment (60-62 AD). With Greeks being the target audience, Luke presents Jesus from the perspective of being the “Son of Man” which would have a more world-wide scope.
Vs. 1, “Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.” Some biblical scholars believe this another perspective or continuation of our previous chapter. Shechem held significance for this is where Abram built an altar for the LORD when he arrived to the Promised Land (Genesis 12:7). Joshua becomes the LORD’s mouthpiece as he addresses the Israelites directly (vs. 2-13). It’s interesting to see how reviewing our history is so important to living out our present and future. Now that Israel remembers all that God has done for them, how will they respond? I love how Joshua challenges all of Israel to actually respond to the LORD (vs. 14-15). With one voice, they give a resounding positive response (vs. 16-24). The chapter and book closes with the burial of Joshua, burial of Eleazar and the burial of Joseph’s bones (vs. 28-33). Question: Will Israel remain faithful? Stay tuned as we continue you our journey through the Bible!
Regarding application…Letting Go. Vs. 23, “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” Making a decision to follow God is more than just a verbal affirmation. If you are serious about walking with God, than you must learn to let go. Question: Are you holding onto anything? When I first became a Christian, secular music was a huge love of mine. Everything about it mesmerized me: the lyrics, the beat, the mood, etc. But in my heart, I knew I needed to let this “idol” go. I threw away all my tape cassettes (yes, I’m old) when I was 16 years old. Take time today to consider the idols you may be holding onto. Will you let it go?
Vs. 1, “After a long time had passed and the LORD had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then old and well advanced in years.” We now come to Joshua’s farewell speech. Just as Moses gathered Israel to share his imparting words at the end of Deuteronomy, so does Joshua in his old age. There is something special about the last words people share with us. It’s wonderful to see the glory and credit given to the LORD because He was the one who brought them through the desert (vs. 3). Joshua was an ideal model for all those who would step into leadership after him. He was a military commander, but also a spiritual leader. Joshua knew that the task ahead wasn’t going to be an easy one, which is why he exhorted the people to not ally themselves with the remaining Canaanites (vs. 7, 12). I appreciate how Joshua spoke truth in love when it came to not trivializing the consequences if they turned from the LORD (vs. 15-16). It takes a strong and courageous person to live a life that does not conform to the pattern of the world (Romans 12:1-2). This is the idea that Joshua is trying to impart one last time to the Israelites.
Regarding application…Secret to Success. Vs. 6, “Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left.” Question: What was Joshua’s secret to success? Joshua revered the Book of the Law! Joshua’s devotion to God’s word led him into a deeper relationship with the LORD. Question: It’s that’s basic? Yup! Certainly there is an element of faith and a transforming of our hearts through the Spirit of God. But I believe we make this walk with God much more confusing than it should be. Working alongside and serving the church, I have seen many people try to operate “outside of the box” with newfound methods and ways of doing ministry. While I appreciate the creative ideas, sometimes there is much wisdom to keeping it basic. The secret to success is that good foundation. For example, when I wrestled back in my junior high/high school days, my coach would always encourage us to perfect a couple of good moves: have one good takedown, have one good escape. While we will learn more moves, if we can perfect the basics we will find much success in wrestling. Likewise, let us keep our firm foundation in His word!
Vs. 4, “Now that the LORD your God has given your brothers rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side of the Jordan.” The eastern tribes (Rueben, Gad and ½ tribe of Manasseh) have fulfilled their duty (Numbers 23) by helping Israel defeat the Canaanites in the Promised Land (vs. 1-8). Now it was their time to return to their families. I love how Joshua exhorted them to spiritually keep their hearts turned to the LORD (vs. 5). But this happy ending comes with a bit of drama! The eastern tribes decide to erect an imposing alter (vs. 10). Question: Why would they do this? It wasn’t to offer sacrifices to a pagan God, but it was setup as a memorial to remind the coming generations that they are all Israelites (vs. 24-29). The drama was created because the western tribes had no idea why the eastern tribes would do such a thing. It’s important to note that they were ready to go to war (vs. 11-12) over this! This issues begs the question: Were the Eastern tribes out of God’s will in the first place for not wanting to enter the Promised Land? There are differing views among biblical scholars. This can bring up issues like God’s sovereign will vs. His permissive will. Some will point to this incident in our chapter as a case in point why this was not a wise choice. The Eastern tribes took matter into their own hands by erecting an altar in the first place. Regardless of how we can interpret this, we must trust in God’s sovereign control.
Regarding application…Conflict Resolution. Vs. 30, “When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the community—the heads of the clans of the Israelites—heard what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased.” Jesus told us, “Blessed are the peacemakers” Matthew 5:9. One of the things that really impresses me is the fact that the western tribes sent Phinehas the High Priest as well as the ten of the chief men from each tribe as a delegation (vs. 13-14). They could have easily jumped to conclusions and rushed in to attack the eastern tribes. This is a stark lesson for how we deal with conflict today. We are emotional beings and are often too quick to assume the worst without taking the time to investigate an action of another. 17th century Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, stated, “Peace is such a precious jewel that I would give anything for it but truth.” Question: Are there any conflicts in your life today? Take time to pray that you would love and sacrifice to bring a peaceful resolution to any conflicts in your life.
Vs. 3, “So, as the LORD had commanded, the Israelites gave the Levites the following towns and pasturelands out of their own inheritance.” We now come to the allotment of the Levites. Question: Who were the Levites? They were set apart by God from the tribe of Levi to help administer to the sacrificial offerings. The tribe of Levi was the only tribe that stood up with Moses when he saw the idolatrous golden calf (Exodus 32:25-29). The Levites were broken up into three groups plus one: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (sons of Levi) and then the line of Aaron (they would serve in the priestly mode). It was now their turn to claim the promises of God. Though they would not possess any specific land, the LORD would spread them out to administer to His people in all the tribes. The Levites and Priesthood played a role much like Pastors, Missionaries, etc. of today.
Regarding application…Faithful Father. Vs. 45, “Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” Question: Is there something in your life that you are worried about? I was thinking about our consumerist society and being bombarded by all these companies that their products are the best. Most companies and retail stores want to give us peace of mind by offering “money-back” guarantees. If the product fails in its promise, we can return it hassle-free. Unlike worldly products, when the Lord offers His products of love and promises, there is no caveat “money-back” return policy. Question: Why? Because God never makes a faulty product! I know when we put our faith in God, there will be times of questioning and doubt. That is why we must root ourselves in His word to constantly remind us of our faithful Father. Take time today to let go of a specific worry in your life.
Vs. 2, “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses.” The LORD Himself now instructs Joshua to follow up with what He already instructed Moses (Deuteronomy 19, Numbers 35) to do: designate cities of refuge. Question: What was the purpose of these cities of refuge? If someone were killed, there was a system in place where the next kinsman (relative) was to avenge his brother or relative. However, there were instances of unintentional deaths and these cities of refuge were setup to protect those who unfortunately fell in this category. For example, Deuteronomy (19:5-6) shares quite a vivid example of someone cutting down a tree with another, and as swings his ax, it accidently flies off the handle and kills the other person. In our courtrooms today, they would call this negligent homicide. The guilty party would present their case at the town gate for consideration of protection (vs. 4). Essentially, this was prison in a lesser degree. I really appreciate that these laws of protection were also given to the foreigner living among them (vs. 9).
Regarding application…Receiving Pardon. Vs. 6, “He is to stay in that city until he has stood trial before the assembly and until the death of the high priest who is serving at that time. Then he may go back to his own home in the town from which he fled.” It’s interesting to note that if the current high priest died, amnesty would be offered to all those who sought protection at these cities of refuge. The death of the high priest would cover over the sins of these people who unintentionally killed another. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4). But Jesus pardon of sins (forgiveness) is far more comprehensive! As believers, we all have been pardoned by the death of our high priest in Jesus! Question: Is there anyone in your life that you can pardon? We are challenged in this life to give the love of Christ as it was given to us. Take time to thank the Lord for His pardon and reach out in forgiveness to another this week!
Vs. 49, “When they had finished dividing the land into its allotted portions, the Israelites gave Joshua son of Nun an inheritance among them.” This is a long chapter that chronicles the remaining six tribes and their allotment. The allotment of Simeon (vs. 1-9) is an interesting one, for all their area would be within the borders of Judah’s allotment. This would seem to fulfill Jacob’s prophecy concerning Simeon (Genesis 49:5-7) for eventually they would be incorporated into Judah’s tribe or some would scatter into Ephraim and Manasseh (II Chronicles 15:9). The tribes of Zebulun (vs. 10-16), Issachar (vs. 17-23) and Naphtali (vs. 32-39) all would become the region of Galilee where Jesus would do the majority of His ministry. The tribe of Asher (vs. 24-31) holds a special place because I am hoping to call my future son, Asher! The tribe of Dan’s allotment (vs. 40-48) was small and eventually they migrated north. And lastly, Joshua would finally receive his special inheritance (vs. 49-51) just as Caleb did (Joshua 14:6-15).
Regarding application…Faithful Promises! Question: Why all these intricate details? God is in the details and this helps prove Israel’s official claim of ownership. It also shows the world both present and future that this land belongs to Israel. Certainly, over the centuries and even present time, there has been huge contention regarding the continued ownership of the Promised Land. Some will vehemently claim this is God’s land and Israel becoming an official nation in 1948 is fulfilling God’s biblical prophecies. Others claim it is more symbolic and that the New Testament church is the Israel of today. Regardless of how we may interpret Scripture, the underlying truth is God is faithful with His promises! As we begin the new week, consider a promise of God that you can begin your week. For me, I love Romans 8:39, “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”