Matthew 2

Vs. 1, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.”  An estimated two years have transpired; Joseph and Mary are living in Bethlehem.  Magi from the east have come to pay homage to the king of the Jews.  It is believed these Magi (magicians, eastern wise men, astrologers) came from Babylon which is about 900 miles!  We are not given the number of wise men, but they more than likely traveled in quite large groups.  The tradition of three comes from the three types of gifts presented to Jesus (vs. 11).  Question: How would they have known about this?  The dispersed Jews certainly would have shared the story of Balaam (Numbers 24:17) and his prophecy of a star that will come out of Jacob.  Herod felt quite pressured knowing that he was not the true rightful heir of the Jews, because he was only half-Jew.  Herod the Great ruled Judea and had the favor of both Rome and the leading Jews.  Yet, the baby Jesus was under the protection of His Father!  How interesting that Jesus’ life parallels the Jewish history; Jesus would also travel down to Egypt, and would return back to the land of Canaan.  The Holy Spirit guides Matthew in selecting OT scripture that reminds us (especially the Jews) that Jesus is the fulfillment of these prophecies.  The order to kill the baby boys two years and younger (vs. 16-18) would have been an estimated ten to thirty boys because Bethlehem was a very small town.  Lastly we see, Jesus and family return to region of Galilee in the town of Nazareth (vs. 21-23).

Regarding application…A Right Response.  Vs. 11, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”  What a contrast when you compare the magi to the response of Herod and all of Jerusalem (vs. 3).  Though Matthew’s gospel is targeted towards Jews, the ones who respond right are Gentiles.  We don’t know the magi’s hearts when they bowed down to worship or if they even knew the ramifications of it.  However, their response reminds all of us that Jesus is not only the king of the Jews, but came to save the whole world.  Question: How do you respond when you come before the Lord?  God’s response was to give His one and only Son (John 3:16).  Let us consider how we respond.  In a world that is often me-centric, it’s time to be a giver rather than a taker.

Hebrews 8

Vs. 1, “Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.”  Like any good presentation, we see the author of Hebrews give us a summary of the main point and central focus of the letter.  Jesus is the high priest that continues to serve in our lives today!  Jesus is not in some man-made tabernacle, but Jesus is at the right hand of the Father.   Jesus is ministering in the heavenly tabernacle not the copy of it that was on earth (vs. 3-6).  It served a temporal purpose, but Jesus serves eternally.  The old covenant was fulfilled and made perfect (due to man’s sinfulness) through the new covenant (vs. 7-13).  Moses was the old covenant mediator, but Jesus is the perfect mediator.  The fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jeremiah 31:31-34) came to pass.

Regarding application…Is the Old Covenant Bad?  Vs. 13, “By calling this covenant new, he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.”  Question: Who gave us the Old Covenant?  God had His purpose for His promises given to His people at that time.  Both the old and new covenants were given for the good of God’s people.  Both covenants offered blessings.  Jesus did not come to abolish God’s law (Matthew 5:17), but He came to fulfill God’s ultimate promise to love His people and be a blessing to His nations.  God has written His law in our hearts and our minds, we are without excuse!  Let us therefore make every effort to honor Him in all that we do!  Question: What can you honor him with today?

Habakkuk 1

Vs. 3, “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.”  Habakkuk is interesting because the whole book centers on dialogue between him and God.  Habakkuk twice has questions for the LORD, and twice, the LORD responds.  The first set of questions (vs. 2-4) ask why does the LORD allow wrongdoing (wickedness – NASB) to prevail.  Judah had lost their good king Josiah and now things were getting worse.  Corruption was rampant and violence was increasing.  Sadly, I think we can relate quite well with Habakkuk in some ways.  Question: How does God respond?  The LORD reminds Habakkuk of the increasing power of the Babylonians.  In fact, the LORD stuns Habakkuk by saying this evil nation who easily defeated the Assyrians and the Egyptians will be coming for Judah (vs. 5-11)!  Needless to say, Habakkuk responds again with questions about how God could not only allow wrongdoing, but allow a more evil people to overcome His own people (vs. 12-17).  Habakkuk uses the metaphor of fisherman who find joy in their catch with how the Babylonians find joy in catching and killing others (vs. 14-17).

Regarding application…Why God?  Vs. 13b, “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”  Question: Is it sinful to question God?  Why does it seem the wicked prosper and righteous suffer?  Why is it so difficult to live a Christian life today?  How long is this suffering and trouble going to last?  The fact that Habakkuk could ask such poignant questions shows us the relationship he had with the LORD.  Secure children are able to freely ask their parents questions without the fear of being punished.  Questions with a sincere heart show reveal sincere faith.  Certainly, we can mock the Lord by asking questions with a hard heart.  But, even in the lines of questions, notice Habakkuk’s recognition of God’s grace and power (vs. 12-13).  In Habakkuk, we see how to deal with our questions and the death and destruction that surround us in this life.  It’s okay to be honest, just don’t ever forget that God is faithful.  The more you know God and His word the more your faith will be grounded!

Nahum 2

Vs. 1, “An attacker advances against you, Nineveh. Guard the fortress, watch the road, brace yourselves, marshal all your strength!”  Nineveh withstood an initial attack in 614 B.C., however, the Medes teamed up with the Babylonians and two years later they won.  In the end, it was the LORD who was against Nineveh/Assyrians.  Nahum describes in vivid color the impending attack (vs. 3-5).  The red color would have belonged to the Babylonians.  It would have been nearly inconceivable to the Assyrians that their great city that could house over 300,000 people would fall (vs. 6-10).  The lion was a symbol of power for the Assyrians.  The reference to the lions’ den (vs. 11-12) is a metaphor for how the Assyrians would take captives to be killed and tortured publicly.  It is a grave thing to do such evil and even more serious when the LORD is against you (vs. 13).

Regarding application…A Stern Warning.  Vs. 13, “I am against you,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will burn up your chariots in smoke, and the sword will devour your young lions. I will leave you no prey on the earth. The voices of your messengers will no longer be heard.”  To give us perspective, the Assyrians were being attacked by the Babylonians because of their unrepentant hearts.  There was another prophet who lived in the time of Nahum, his name: Jeremiah.  About 15 years later in 597 B.C., the same empire that would attack and be victorious over the Assyrians would now turn their gaze upon Judah.  The warning that is given to us is that God is against anyone who does such evil.  For the reader today, it seems obvious that the warnings of the prophets like Nahum and Jeremiah should have been taken seriously.  There are warning labels on many of our products that we purchase.  One of the big warnings is for us to check the seal before opening our package (food, medicine, etc.).  If the seal has been broke, that means it could have been tampered with.  Many of us are very keen to ensure that we check these warnings for our physical safety.  How much more than should we heed the warnings throughout God’s word to flee from sinful past and turn to the Lord?

Jeremiah 50

Vs. 25, “The LORD has opened his arsenal and brought out the weapons of his wrath, for the Sovereign LORD Almighty has work to do in the land of the Babylonians.”  While Babylon was being used by God, she became too prideful and arrogant.   It was time to bring war upon Babylon.  While this would apply directly the Babylonians, there was a  dual meaning to this.  Babylon often in Scripture symbolizes the world system.  God would humble and will humble our human system of pride.  He also gives us a wonderful picture of gathering back His lost flock (vs, 6-7) and forgiving the people (19-20).

 

Regarding application…God Redeemed Us.  Vs. 34, “Yet their Redeemer is strong; the LORD Almighty is his name. He will vigorously defend their cause so that he may bring rest to their land, but unrest to those who live in Babylon.”  What a fitting reminder of the fact that God is our Redeemer.  Here in our passage, we see God redeeming and forgiving His people.  Yesterday, the message to the youth reminded them that they matter to God and that God redeems them!  I’m sure God’s people often felt despair, but God would remind them that He had not forgotten about them.  That His promises come true!  Keep you head up this week and find comfort in our Redeeming God!

Jeremiah 51

Vs. 49, “Babylon must fall because of Israel’s slain, just as the slain in all the earth have fallen because of Babylon.”  It would be a prophecy of reckoning.  Someone would have to pay for this pride and sin.  The Lord God would warn Babylon of this future if they contiuned down this path.  So God would raise up another leader in Cyrus from Persia and command him to attack Babylonians (vs. 20-24).  He would remind those who got too comfortable in Babylon not to forget what had happened to them (vs. 34-35).  There was no future in Babylon, just as there is really no future in this world for it is a dying world.  We must make do the best we can to trust in God until a better tomorrow!

 

Regarding application…Never Forsaken.  Vs. 5, “For Israel and Judah havye not been forsaken by their God, the Lord Almighty, though their land is full of guilt before the Holy One of Israel.”  As I reflect upon this incredible journey of God’s people from their homeland, to their sin, to the invasion, to the captivity…and now their restoration…I marvel at God’s faithfulness!  I’m sure there were many doubts throughout the seventy years of captivity, but God would shine through.  It’s just a reminder that there are mountains and valley’s in our lives.  We must do our part to just know His love will never forsake us.  Keep you head up and continue to live on the promises of God!  One day, we too will be restored from this Babylon (world).  Pray for this week and thank God for all the hard workers of the faith and regular workforce on this Labor day!

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Jeremiah 49

Vs. 1, “Concerning the Ammonites: This is what the Lord says: “Has Israel no sons? Has she no heirs? Why then has Molech a taken possession of Gad? Why do his people live in its towns.”  This was a long chapter, huh?  Now, we continue to see the consequences God would put upon the other nations surrounding Israel.  Remember that the Edomites and the Ammonites are descandants of Lot (Abraham’s nephew from Ur).  Ammon and Edom both had history of turning to other God’s and invading Israel…especially after the Northern Kingdom was taken by the Assyrians.  Additional people’s would also be judged…Damascus (Syrai), Kedar & Hazor (Arabians), and the Elamites (Persians).

 

Regarding application...Cup of Consequences.  Vs. 12, “This is what the Lord says: “If those who do not deserve to drink the cup must drink it, why should you go unpunished? You will not go unpunished, but must drink it.”  Hmmm…It’s never easy to read the consequences of those who have turned away from God.  Of course, we read of such things because God is communicating to us that we must double-check ourselves.  Are we going down the road of Pride?  The picture of “cup” is considered God’s wrath.  Yet, again…we see that even those these nations would receive punishment by God…The Lord’s grace in the end would be upon them (vs. 6, 39).  ”Just say No” like the Recabites (Jer. 35) and put God first in your life!  Have a blessed Saturday and go to church tomorrow wherever you live :)

Jeremiah 48

Vs. 42, “Moab will be destroyed as a nation because she defied the Lord.”  Question: Who were the people from Moab?  They were the descandants of Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and would eventually become enemies of the Jews.  When the Babylonians attacked Israel, Moab stopped their dispute with Israel.  However, because of their pride…The Babylnonians also attacked them.  They thought that their pagan god would rescue them.  It’s notable that Jeremiah felt sorrow for the Moabites as well (vs. 31).

 

Regarding application…Future Hope.  Vs. 47, “Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in days to come,” declares the Lord. Here ends the judgment on Moab.”  Question: How will this happen?  Remember that Jeremiah is a prophet and here he was prophecying of a time when they not only would return to their land in 538 B.C.  One day Jesus would reign and bring the Moabites and all Gentiles a hope through the cross!  The storyline is familiar: Once in God’s favor, sinned, became prideful, judged others, experience hopelessness, but one day restored!  That’s God’s redemptive work illustrated once again!  Of course, God does this for all of us!  So if you are feeling hopeless…don’t give up!

Jeremiah 46

Vs. 2, “Concerning Egypt: This is the message against the army of Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt, which was defeated at Carchemish on the Euphrates River by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah.”  Jeremiah now begins addressing the nations with oracles (authoritative statements).  Starting with Egypt, we see God begin to humble them and remind them of their big defeat at Carhemish from the new rising power (Babylonians).  Bear in mind, it was the first the Egyptians that attacked and killed Josiah (Judah’s last good king).  Jeremiah goes on to give them prophecies of what is soon to come.  Egypt would be destroyed, because of what they did and their very high pride.  But in this chapter, we also see God’s reminder of His covenant promise to Israel (Jacob)!

 

Regarding application…Don’t Get Discouraged.  Vs. 27, “Do not fear, O Jacob my servant; do not be dismayed, O Israel.”  The time we live in now is actually very similar to Jeremiah’s.  Wars and the demise of nations and punishment continue in our day.  It can get very discouraging to see all the wars and atrocities that happen in this world.  Then we look at our own lives and sometimes see the seemingly pointless activities of our lives.  Yet, God would remind His people that He is calling them back home.  Just as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, “There is no place like home.”  This place we live in is but a shadow of what our future holds!  Keep the faith, don’t get discouraged when tough times come.  Turn to God’s word this week and let Him be a part of your daily life in all your interactions!

Jeremiah 45

Vs. 1, “This is what Jeremiah the prophet told Baruch son of Neriah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, after Baruch had written on a scroll the words Jeremiah was then dictating.”  This chapter was written at the time Jeremiah 36 transpired.  The reason it is placed here now is that it will shed some light into the following chapters.  Remember that Baruch was the faithful assistant to Jeremiah often writing down what Jeremiah was sharing.  Baruch also lived a very difficult life and even some blamed Baruch for inciting Jeremiah in our earlier chapter.  Baruch had a brother who could have secured a very easy career at the palace, but Baruch stayed faithful to Jeremiah!

 

Regarding application…Serving Faithfully.  Vs. 5, “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.”  Sometimes we get it in our mind that only those who serve as Pastors, Missionaries, etc. are the only faithful.  But Baruch served God faithfully in his skill of writing.  Whatever skills God blesses us with, there are undoubtedly opportunities to serve God and the church.  Notice, how God even acknowledged Baruch could have done other things that the world thinks is greater.  However, God would reward Baruch with safety in the midst of all the chaos.  And, as we serve God…He too will do likewise for us.  Serve Him faithfully, and know that God has much more in store for us when we do!